A group of wildfires, referred to as the Miles Fire, continues to threaten about 1,300 structures on Oregon’s Jackson-Douglas County line. The combined fire is burning more than 40,000 acres.
Smoke has been sitting on top of the region for the past few days, keeping conditions relatively stable. But beginning Tuesday afternoon, that smoke began to lift, causing a shift on the ground.
“Variable winds and just a lot more oxygen in there to increase the fire behavior. You get that direct sunlight down there on the fire and that increases temperatures,” said fire information officer Cheyne Rossbach.
Fire activity has increased in several places.
Further west, firefighting efforts on two large fires burning near Grants Pass have now been combined under one command. It’s a sign that good progress has been made on the Taylor Creek and Klondike fires and containment lines are expanding.
The two wildfires have been among the largest in Oregon. Combined, they’re burning more than 70,000 acres of public and private forestland and wilderness in the southwest part of the state.
About 2,000 people are working the Taylor Creek and Klondike fires, but fire information officer Jennifer Berger says they’re adjusting in response to success over the past few days.
“The night shift is dwindling. Still there, still protecting homes, structures, recreations sites, other things. But the threat is greatly reduced and you notice that with the number of personnel that are also reducing,” she said.
Evacuation levels have been decreased in several areas, allowing some residents back into their homes. Berger says Tuesday evening, officials restored access to the Rogue River as well.
Smoke from these and other southwest Oregon wildfires continues to create unhealthy air quality in several communities, including Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls.