Briggs Creek 11-9-11


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Oak Flat fire grows more than 5,000 acres

Blaze near Grants Pass is 70 percent contained

August 27, 2010

By Paul Fattig

Mail Tribune

Fire retardant planes and heavy-lift helicopters lugging large containers of water flew continuous sorties over the Oak Flat fire on Thursday in a battle to stop the obstinate fire in its tracks.

Air tankers from the Medford airport dropped 14 loads of fire retardant while helicopters dumped 135 loads of water on the 5,360-acre fire, said Tim Johnson, spokesman for the interagency team managing the effort to stop the fire.

The cost of battling the blaze that started Aug. 13 is now a little more than $10 million, he said.

Aided by high temperatures, gusty wind and low humidity, the Oak Flat fire in the national forest jumped a containment line on the north side of the fire late Wednesday afternoon, burning roughly 500 acres, officials said.

Although the fire was spotting up to half a mile to the north, firefighters were able to safely disengage from the main fire, regroup and attack the new fires, they said.

The fire is burning in the Wild Rivers Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest 20 miles southwest of Grants Pass.

The fire now is considered about 70 percent contained, he said.

An additional 240 firefighters have arrived to join the roughly 760 firefighters and five helicopters already battling the blaze.

"The containment line on the east side should be in good shape by the end of the shift on Friday," Johnson said Thursday, noting he expected the fire lines on the western perimeter to be further reinforced by Thursday evening.

While firefighters continue to battle the fire, crews are already beginning rehabilitation work on the west, south and east flanks.

With temperatures expected to drop into the 70s in the Rogue Valley over the weekend, officials say even cooler temperatures in the mountains coupled with higher humidity will aid their firefighting efforts.

If Mother Nature continues to cooperate, the fire could be fully contained by Wednesday, officials said.

The cause of the fire, believed triggered by human activity, is under investigation.