The growth of the 4,700-acre Rum Creek wildfire in Josephine County prompted Governor Kate Brown to invoke the emergency conflagration law Friday night.
The declaration allows the state’s Office of the Fire Marshal to assume a unified command, his office said Saturday. Local aid agencies were already there, he said.
The fire was started by lightning and grew dramatically overnight to cover 4,700 acres of forest land northwest of Grants Pass. The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office issued Level 3, 2 and 1 evacuation orders for homes near the fire, the governor’s office said.
“The Rum Creek Fire grew rapidly overnight, requiring additional resources to fight the fire and support the state’s response,” Brown said in a statement. “It’s a good reminder that conditions can change quickly and fire knows no bounds. It is important that all Oregonians be prepared, follow all evacuation orders, and continue to follow local and state fire regulations to keep our communities safe and our natural resources protected. .
After determining that the threat from the Rum Creek Fire exceeded the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment, Brown’s office paved the way for the fire marshal to State to mobilize firefighters and equipment to help local resources fight the fire. More than 600 people are working to save lives and structures from the blaze, officials said Saturday morning.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is enlisting four structural crews from Douglas, Linn, Clackamas and Lincoln counties to assist with the response. The teams are made up of 53 firefighters, 16 vehicles and 4 water supply personnel.
Firefighters worked through the night from Friday to Saturday to protect the area between the small communities of Rand and Galicia, fire officials said Saturday. Aerial reconnaissance on Saturday morning confirmed that no homes or structures in the area had burned down, they said.
The Rogue River is temporarily closed to rafting and boating in the area, to allow firefighters to operate freely. Rangers are stationed at the Hog Creek boat launch to warn boaters to leave the Rogue at this location and to prevent boaters from launching at this location.
Thick, dangerous smoke lingers in the Illinois Valley south of the fire to the California border, including the Cave Junction area, and residents are asked to stay indoors after 2 p.m. Saturday, a warned Air Resources Advisor Amber Ortega. Smoke levels range from unhealthy to very unhealthy to dangerous, she said.
The blaze, which has been burning since mid-August, has claimed at least one life: Logan Taylor, a 25-year-old firefighter, died last week after being hit by a tree while battling the blaze, officials said.
The unincorporated community of Galicia was among those evacuated. The Grants Pass County Fairgrounds has been designated as an evacuation shelter, with space for people, their pets and livestock.
The progress of the fires has reached the banks of the Rogue River, according to an official report on Inciweb. The possibility of the fire “spotting” across the Rogue remains a big concern, especially at the confluence of Grave Creek, according to this report.
Level 3 “Go now!” the evacuation order applies to areas north of Belknap Gulch, along Little Stratton Creek, south of Angora Road and Lower Grave Creek Road, east of Rogue River and west of Tom East Creek, Hog Creek Road and Hog Creek.
–Betsy Hammond; [email protected]