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Wildfires close Oregon Caves, Highway 199

Highway 199 south of Cave Junction and all access to the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve were closed due to severe wildfires in the area, monument staff said Wednesday afternoon.

A large complex of fires is burning in Northern California and had spread into the southern edge of Josephine County.

The public should not attempt to travel Highway 199 or enter the Illinois Valley in and around Cave Junction, officials said. Dry, hot, windy conditions are causing fires to spread rapidly, according to George Herring, chief of interpretation and education at Oregon Caves National Monument.

“Multiple fires are burning in the areas around the park,” Herring said. “Please stay clear of the area. We deeply appreciate the efforts of the wildland fire community to protect Illinois Valley of Oregon, including the Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.”

Cave tours have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, but surface features of the monument, including hiking trails, had been open to the public.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the area south of Kerby and Cave Junction was under a Level 2 “Be Ready” evacuation alert.

The O’Brien and Takilma areas, including the Dick George Road and Takilma Road areas, were under a Level 3 “Go” evacuation alert.

All evacuees were being directed to check in at the Josephine County Fairgrounds off Highway 199, at 1451 Fairgrounds Road, Grants Pass.

Residents and visitors can contact a call center set up by Josephine County at 541-474-5305 if they have questions or concerns about evacuations, road closures and other wildfire impacts.

For updates, see co.josephine.or.us/fire.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneA fire threatens structures near Valley View Rd and I-5 exit 19 in Ashland Tuesday.