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Grizzly Creek fire wrangled overnight

Owing to the efforts of more than 200 people and more than 24,000 gallons of retardant, a wildfire that spread rapidly near Ashland Friday afternoon is now lined and under control.

A wet line surrounds 100 percent of the Grizzly Creek fire burning about 20 miles east of Ashland as of shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, according to Kyle Novy-Riley public affairs officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon. Helping crews establish containment lines around 300 acres of the fire are mellow wind conditions, although Novy-Riley said crews are bracing for stronger winds later Saturday afternoon.

“That’s what we’re watching ... and hoping we don’t see any of those gusty winds,” Novy-Riley said.

The wildfire burning about a mile north of Howard Prairie Lake threatened 10 structures after being first spotted at 2:25 p.m. Friday, according to an earlier news report. In a matter of hours the wildfire grew to an estimated 300 to 350 acres — prompting road closures and Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation warnings for campers.

But getting the fire under control was almost as quick, according to Novy-Riley, owing to day shifts of roughly 150 personnel and air tanker assistance during daylight hours, along with a night shift of roughly 80 personnel working the fire.

“We had great air support,” Novy-Riley said, adding that the two tankers and eight helicopters dropped over 24,000 of retardant Friday afternoon and evening. “That really helped our dozers and our hand crews to draw that line.”

Initial attack personnel consisted of three crews, six fire engines, two bulldozers, and two water tenders.

By 9 p.m. Friday, dozers had drawn a line around 60 percent of the fire. By 8 a.m. Saturday the 150 night personnel had lined 99 percent of the fire.

“The key to success is our aggressive initial attack,” Novy-Riley said.

Seven crews, nine engines, four dozers, five water tenders and seven helicopters held the fire at 300 acres Saturday, and Novy-Riley said crews will focus on strengthening containment lines into next week.

According to the National Weather Service in Medford, smoke from the Grizzly Creek fire isn’t significantly contributing to Jackson County’s air quality advisory, because winds are largely pushing smoke from that fire northeast and out of the Rogue Valley.

Instead, Jackson County’s air quality advisory stems from the Red Salmon Complex wildfire burning near Trinity and Humboldt counties in Northern California, according to National Weather Service Medford meteorologist Jay Stockton.

Jackson County’s air quality advisory was originally expected to end Saturday night, but was extended to 5 a.m. Sunday.

“We do think it’s going to improve in time, though,” Stockton said.

The forecast calls for southwest winds to shift to westerly winds on Sunday and northeast to easterly winds, according to Stockton.

A heat advisory will last through Monday in the Medford area, and Stockton said Sunday’s forecast is “another hot one” predicting a high of 104. High temperatures will slightly cool next week, with Monday calling for a high of 102 degrees and Tuesday exiting the triple-digits with a high of 99 degrees.

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

A helicopter carries a bucket of water Saturday over a fire near Howard Prairie Lake that has burned an estimated 300 acres. Photo by Denise Baratta
A firefighter works a hotspot Saturday on a fire near Howard Prairie Lake. Photo by Denise Baratta