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ODF jumps on Gyda fire in Applegate Valley

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Crews from multiple agencies raced to fight a brush fire in the Applegate Valley that sprang up late Tuesday afternoon and grew to 55 acres by 9 p.m.

No evacuations have been ordered for the Gyda fire, named for the road off of Highway 238 near where it started, and two outbuildings were destroyed, according to Natalie Weber, spokeswoman for Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District.

By 6 p.m., crews from agencies including Applegate Valley Fire District, Jacksonville Fire Department, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and the Bureau of Land Management had lined the fire with retardant using two large airtankers.

Hand crews and bulldozers worked through the night and into Wednesday morning to hold the fire lines, Weber said. A news release sent out near 9 p.m. said that the fire was 95% lined.

The fire, the cause of which is still under investigation, raced up a steep hill north of Highway 238 near milepost 23, about 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Wildland crews worked with structural resources to save 12 residences near the fire, Weber said in the news release.

Crews had to navigate difficult terrain and steep inclines, Weber said. Air resources were called in quickly. Eight engines, six crews, five water tenders and three dozers were involved by 9 p.m.

“We have grass ignited, we have brush ignited, we also have the timber,” she said. “And that kind of continues the driving force of the fire by spotting out fires, and in that way it just ... grows very quickly.”

With the help of four helicopters doing water drops, crews lined the fire, which moved with the wind farther away from the highway and residences in the area as it burned.

Smoke spread into the Applegate Valley, drawing highway drivers to the shoulder to peer upward as residents stood outside their homes shading their eyes and looking, too.

Crews already were on high alert this week due to forecasts predicting above-100-degree temperatures through Wednesday and possible lightning.

To prepare, ODF officials made 100 firefighters available to attack fire starts in Jackson and Josephine counties.

In addition to retardant and water drops, Weber said that air resources will be used for GPS mapping, to determine the acreage of the fire, and to mark any spot fires that start.

Because of the increased danger of falling trees in this type of terrain, Weber said crews are being vigilant to keep firefighters safe.

“That gets difficult at night when you have a fire that’s involved with timber,” she said. “We’re going to be keeping an eye on those as crews continue to make progress.”

Oregon State Police, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office also supported the firefighting effort by closing Gyda Lane briefly and opening it again and directing traffic.

The fire remained at 55 acres according to officials at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune A tanker drops retardant Tuesday on the fast-growing Gyda fire near Highway 238.
Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneFirefighters work Tuesday to surround the fast-moving Gyda fire.