Freeway, Highway 99 stretches shut down during firefight
Tuesday 4 p.m. - The Jackson County Sheriff's Office sent out a reverse 9-1-1 notification at 4 p.m. Tuesday asking all residents who are not under an evacuation order to stay home and avoid the whole southern end of the county, including Ashland, Talent and Phoenix.
"There are multiple fire operations and many first responder vehicles. Public traffic is creating dangerous impacts. Please stay home and avoid all active fire scenes. Thank you," the sheriff's office said in the message.
Meanwhile, northbound I-5 traffic has been stopped at the Oregon and California border due to the Ashland area fire. Traffic is being turned around and directed back to California, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
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A fire that started on Almeda Drive in Ashland has ballooned to approximately 400 acres and shut down a stretch of Interstate 5 and Highway 99, according to Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Department of Transportation officials.
Firefighters first responded to the incident at 11:05 a.m., according to dispatch records. Multiple structures have since burned, though a specific amount was not immediately available.
Officials from multiple agencies have responded to the blaze, including ODF, Ashland Fire & Rescue, Jackson County Fire District No. 5, Medford Fire-Rescue and Grants Pass Department of Public Safety. All lanes of I-5 are closed between exit 35 and 14, according to ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. On Highway 99, southbound lanes are closed at milepost 17, about 2 miles south of Talent.
"Drivers urged to exit interstate and seek local services in the Medford/Central Point area until fire conditions improve and the interstate reopens," an ODOT bulletin reads. "We have no estimated time for reopening."
The Jackson County Expo, Ashland High School and Southern Oregon University have opened as a shelter.
Firefighting agencies continue to mobilize.
"Right now we have engines in various locations. There's an aviation campaign with helicopters," said ODF spokesman Kyle Novy-Riley. "With conditions being what they are, the low humidity and excessive heat leading up to this event, we definitely have our work cut out for us."
Much of Southwest Oregon, including Jackson County, remains under a red flag warning until 5 p.m. Wednesday because of dry conditions, heat, and strong winds.
This story will be updated.