Cooler weather slows large wildfire in Oregon

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The spread of a major wildfire in the Siskiyou Mountains along the Oregon-California border has slowed as temperatures cooled, giving firefighters a chance to build containment lines. But more lightning is predicted, and it could start more fires.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland reports a fire 15 miles east of Ashland was 20 percent contained Monday at 72 square miles — 57 of them in Oregon in Jackson and Klamath counties. The rest is in Siskiyou County in California.

The fire burned six scattered rural homes last week and still threatens 270 more, about 40 of them within the fire perimeter. Structural fire taskforces from Linn, Lane and Benton counties were stationed around homes. Evacuation alerts on the north side of Copco Lake and in the Greensprings area south of Highway 66 remained in force.

Overall, nine large fires were burning across 118 square miles of forest and rangeland in Oregon, most of them east of the Cascade Range. Three of them were nearly fully contained.

Firefighters were concerned that winds developing in the afternoon could cause the fire 15 miles east of Ashland to flare up in the large unburned areas of timber and brush within the fire area, fire spokesman Lou Gugliotta said.

“So much within the burn hasn’t burned yet, because the fire blew past it so fast,” he said.

Coordination center spokesman Tom Knappenberger says after two straight days of major runs, the fire burned only about 7 square miles on Sunday. Firefighters made progress building containment lines on the eastern flank, the direction the fire has been spreading through timber, brush, and the Klamath River Canyon after being touched off last week by lighting.

Thunderstorms are expected Monday night and Tuesday morning, followed by calmer weather until the weekend.

Fire camp was moved to Howard Prairie, a campground closer to the fire lines, Gugliotta said.

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