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Conditions favor fight against Gopher fire

The Gopher fire burning in the Sky Lakes Wilderness was reported at 340 acres Monday morning, according to fire officials.

Lower temperatures and wet weather were helping firefighters buy time as they establish fire lines, said Aaron Schuch, incident commander on the fire.

"These cool and moist conditions are giving us the time we need to prepare our fire lines ... when the warmer and drier weather returns in the coming weeks." Schuch said in a news release Monday morning.

The Gopher fire, formed when five lightning-caused fires merged over the weekend, is burning in the scar of the 2008 Middle Fork fire.It is about 11 miles east of Prospect and as close as four miles from any private property, according to InciWeb.

Cool weather is expected to persist through the next couple of days, though additional thunderstorms are possible Tuesday afternoon. Warmer, drier weather is expected to return Wednesday.

Firefighters are navigating snags and felling hazard trees when necessary, the release said. Firefighters are focused largely on containment on the southeast side of the fire, in the steep Middle Fork drainage.

Crews include 12 hand crews, 20 people each, four Type-1 helicopters, one Type-2 helicopter, a Type-3 helicopter and a dozer. Staff working the fire totals 289 people.

Several trails and National Forest roads are closed, the release said. Trail No. 979 east from the Middle Fork trailhead to its intersection with Trail 980 is off-limits, as is Trail No. 1084 from the Tom and Jerry Trailhead, heading east to its intersection with Trail No. 1085. Trail No. 1089 between Trail No. 1085 and the Pacific Crest Trail is also closed.

Trail Nos. 980 and 1085 are closed entirely, according to the release.

Light rainfall is expected to continue through Monday evening, with wind up to 12 mph a possibility in exposed areas and the west-east aligned drainages.

Updates are available on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Facebook and Twitter pages.

Map of Gopher fire, Sept. 9
Aerial view of the Gopher fire, courtesy of InciWeb.