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East Evans fire nearly contained

Crews fighting the East Evans fire near Sams Valley said Tuesday that containment was up to 38% and the fire was down to 155 acres — from 300 acres Saturday — but a second firefighter was injured.

The firefighter was hurt Monday evening when a tanker carrying 5,000 gallons of jet fuel left the Beagle helibase in Shady Cove on assignment to the fire. Driver Juan Jose Dominguez of Lacey, Washington, sustained minor injuries. He was treated at Providence Medford Medical Center and released at 10:15 a.m., according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

A firefighter was airlifted Friday night with serious injuries sustained while working on the northeast side of the fire, according to earlier news reports.

Crews face steep terrain on the north side of the fire, according to ODF, and the terrain is hampering mop-up operations.

As of Tuesday, crews were focused on strengthening and advancing containment lines. More than 250 personnel were working the fire, with resources that included 13 hand crews, six tree fallers, 10 fire engines, 10 water tenders, one bulldozer, three helicopters and two air-attack platforms.

The fire, which prompted Level 3 “Go” evacuations over the weekend that have since been lifted, broke rapidly Friday afternoon following reports of a structure fire. Oregon State Police and the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office are investigating the cause of the fire.

On Tuesday, nearly 30 residences were under Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation levels, and the road remained blocked at East Evans Creek Road near the intersections of May Creek and Meadows roads.

Milepost 97 fire

The human-caused wildfire burning one mile south of Canyonville has a footprint of 13,119 acres but is 65% contained — a 10% improvement over the previous 24 hours, ODF said Tuesday.

Some 1,187 personnel are battling the fire, including 50 hand crews, 35 engines, 12 dozers, 28 water tenders and six helicopters, according to a release issued by ODF. As of Tuesday, the cost of fighting the fire was estimated at $19.1 million.

The first large blaze of Oregon’s 2019 fire season, the Milepost 97 fire started at 10 p.m. July 24 from an abandoned illegal campfire, according to ODF. The fire took off quickly in an unmanaged forest area covered with overgrown brush and snags in an area that burned during the 1987 Canyon Mountain fire.

The fire prompted three evacuations during the early stages of the fight, but the homes survived. The fire threatened 586 structures, but none were damaged or destroyed.

Among the complexities crews faced were multiple land ownerships, a major power line and natural gas pipelines dissecting the fire area, and Interstate 5 at the fire’s eastern edge.

Weather a mixed blessing

A forecast that calls for cooler temperatures could help firefights across the state, but crews in Southern Oregon are braced for lightning this week.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest said it has gathered extra resources to react to potential lightning strikes predicted for Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, and for Friday evening.

Last Saturday and Sunday, meteorologists counted 113 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the region, including 10 in Jackson County.

The forecast called for limited lightning in Jackson County in the coming days, according to meteorologist Miles Bliss, but meteorologists will be watching northern portions of Lake and Klamath counties closely.

“Friday evening seems to be the day we’re queuing into the most,” Bliss said.

The Forest Service has at the ready 17 engines, five initial attack crews, one 10-person hand crew, a wildland fire crew, two bulldozers, one water tender, five helicopters, including two rappel helicopters, fully staffed lookouts, five prevention and patrol units, and fully staffed large air tanker and very large air tanker base.

In addition to those resources, the Forest Service has a contingency plan in place to increase resources if meteorologists’ confidence grows in their lightning forecast for Friday night, with an option to double the number of engines, crews and dozers at the discretion of Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest staff.

A trend of cooling temperatures is expected through the weekend in Southern Oregon, according to the National Weather Service.

A weather phenomenon known as an “upper level low” is moving inland, drawing cooler air from the coast to our region, and by Saturday temperatures are predicted to be roughly 10 degrees cooler than typical for August.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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