Oregon Gulch Fire expands; 3 homes destroyed

ASHLAND, Ore. — People who live along Highway 66 near Ashland should be ready to evacuate because of a wildfire, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

The Oregon Gulch Fire has already destroyed three homes, other buildings and multiple vehicles, and a total of 270 structures are threatened in Oregon and California.

The fire started by lightning Thursday has scorched about 33 square miles of parched land southeast of Ashland. It was 5 percent contained Saturday, and the forecast calls for hot, dry weather.

The Oregon Gulch Fire is part of what has been named the Beaver Complex, which also includes the Salt Creek Fire burning 20 miles northwest of Medford. That fire is much smaller and fire personnel were able to build lines around the fire.

About 800 people are working on the fire and air resources include 14 helicopters and air tankers.

Elsewhere, two more fires were reported in Central Oregon, bringing the total to 30 fires reported in the past 24 hours, the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center said Saturday. A red flag warning for thunderstorms continued Saturday.

The Castle Fire about 25 miles north of Sisters has now been absorbed into the Bridge 99 Complex Type III Management team. The flames slopped over lines created Friday and because of the steepness of the terrain, there is the potential for growth as debris from the fire rolls downhill and outside preliminary fire lines.

Meanwhile, firefighters battling the Logging Unit Fires on the Warm Springs Reservation got some good news. A weather system expected to produce strong winds on Sunday has stalled, and the winds probably won’t arrive for several days, giving firefighters more time to establish containment lines.

This is the heart of huckleberry season on the reservation, and fire officials might reopen portions of the closed areas to allow the harvest to proceed.

“The problem, however, is that there is still active fire in the area, with possible new fire starts, and also a high concentration of crews and equipment working in the vicinity,” said Bob Kathman, a fire spokesman. “We want tribal members to have access to the huckleberry fields, but at the same time we have to make public and firefighter safety our first priority.”

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