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Milepost 97 Fire 55 Percent Contained, Smoke Impact Now Minimal In Most Of The Region

UPDATE: Monday, Aug. 5, 3:30 a.m. ... Containment on the Milepost 97 Fire has reached 55 percent. That said, hand line, dug by fire crews, and bull dozer constructed line completely surround the 13,119 acre fire.

The majority of the work that remains is mopping up, or preventing hot spots from flaring up and crossing established containment lines.

A level one evacuation notification remains in effect for public safety. Level one means that residents should be “ready” to evacuate if conditions warrant. Fire officials say that many areas of Oregon should consider themselves in level one when fire season is in effect.

Air Quality Index readings in the Rogue and Illinois Valleys have remained in the "Good" range all weekend.


UPDATE: Saturday, Aug. 3, 1:30 p.m. ... Firefighters assigned to the Milepost 97 Fire had another successful day on Friday, completing fire lines around the entire perimeter of the fire. No additional fire growth was reported on Friday. The fire remains at 13,085 acres and is 45% contained. 

As of noon Satruday, Air Quality Index readings were mostly in the "Good" range throughout the Rogue and Illinois Valleys.

Some initial attack crews on the Milepost 97 Fire, including both ground and aviation resources, were sent to the East Evans Fire, a new fire start Friday evening on the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District.

With containment lines in place, resources working on the Milepost 97 Fire will now focus their energy on mopping up hot spots around the perimeter of the fire to ensure that it doesn’t escape containment. Crews will start at the edge of the fire, extinguishing all smokes and smoldering material within the first 20 – 50 feet of containment lines before pushing farther into the black. Firefighters will utilize handheld infrared cameras to help pinpoint hotspots in these areas that need to be extinguished. With a burned footprint around 20 square miles, which is twice the size of the city of Roseburg, smoke from the interior of the fire may be visible for the coming days.





UPDATE: FRIDAY, Aug. 2, 5:20 a.m. ... After another successful burn-out operation Thursday afternoon, the Milepost 97 fire just west of I-5 near Canyonville is 35 percent contained. The most recent area figures show the fire has burned 13,070 acres.

Smoke production continues to decrease as mop-up operations continue. Despite some spikes in smoke Thursday afternoon, all the air monitors in the area south of the fire registered Air Quality Index readings in the "Good" range as of 4:00 Friday morning.

UPDATE: THURSDAY, Aug. 1, 5:30 a.m. ... Efforts to bring the Milepost 97 fire under control are continuing along I-5 near Canyonville in Douglas County. Yesterday, fire crews reinforced control lines and successfully burned an area along the southeastern edge of the fire. As of Wednesday night, the fire had grown slightly to 12,578 acres and is up to 30 percent contained.

As the fire begins to wind down, smoke production has decreased, giving some relief to communities to the south in the Rogue and Illinois Valleys. As of 4 a.m. Thursday, Air Quality Index readings in Medford, Talent, Ashland and Klamath Falls were in the "Moderate" range, while air quality in Grants Pass, Shady Cove, Prevolt and Yreka was rated "Good."

A community meeting was held Wednesday night in Grants Pass. Video of the event can be viewed here.


UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, July 31, 5:30 a.m. ... Fire crews continued to make progress on the Milepost 97 fire Tuesday, solidifying containment lines and beginning mop-up operations in some areas. As of 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, the fire had burned 12,336 acres and was 25 percent contained.

Smoke impacts on the Rogue and Illinois Valleys have begun to diminish, as well. As of 4:00 a.m. Wednesday, Air Quality Index readings were "Moderate" in Ashland, Talent, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Yreka, California, while air quality in Medford, Cave Junction and Shady Cove was rated "Good."

Still, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality forecasts periods of increased smoke impact and is maintaining an Air Quality Advisory for Jackson, Joesphine and Klamath Counties through Wednesday.

A community information meeting is scheduled Wednesday evening  at 7:00. It will be live-streamed on the Milepost 97 fire Facebook page.


UPDATE: TUESDAY, July 30, 5:15 a.m. ... Growth of the Milepost 97 fire in Douglas County has slowed as crews make good progress on hemming the fire in. As of 11:00 p.m. Monday, the fire stood at 11,668 acres and was 15 percent contained. All evacuation levels remain in place, which are being updated here.

While the fire's advance has been slowed, active burning within the perimeter means the heavy smoke that triggered a state air quality advisory is expected to continue for at least several more days. 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has lifted the air quality advisory for Curry County, but the advisory for Jackson, Josephine and Klamath Counties has been extended. 

As of 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, Air Quality Index readings were "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups" in Grants Pass, Medford, Ashland and Prevolt. Talent, Klamath Falls and Yreka had AQI levels in the "Moderate" range, and Cave Junction and Shady Cove enjoyed "Good" air quality readings.

As the day progresses and temperatires rise, air quality is expected to worsen throughout the region.


UPDATE: Monday, July 29, 5:00 a.m. ... Fire crews continue to battle the Milepost 97 fire, burning off I-5 near Canyonville in Douglas County. As of 11:00 last night, the fire was estimated to have burned 11,000 acres and is 10 percent contained. 

Smoke from the fire trigggered an air quality advisory on Friday from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.  

Most of the Rogue and Illinois Valleys suffered through "Unhealthy" Air Quality Index readings or worse much of the weekend. Air quality has tended to improve overnight as smoke clears out, then degrade over the course of the afternoon as the fire becomes more active.

As of 4 a.m. Monday, AQI readings were "Unhealthy" in Medford, Ashland, Talent and Yreka, California. Air quality readings in Grants Pass and Klamath Falls were in the "Moderate" range.

The air quality advisory has been in effect all weekend for Jackson, Josephine, Curry and Klamath Counties. The advisory will be re-evaluated Monday morning, depending on smoke and weather forecasts at that time.

On Sunday, the Milepost 97 fire jumped I-5 and the spot fire grew to 20 acres before crews and aircraft could snuff it out. An additional fire division has been established on the east side of I-5 to anticipate any additional spotting across the freeway. 

The fire continues to move primarily in a southerly path, paralleling the freeway. Firefighters and aircraft are focusing much of their effort on this south portion of the fire to prevent further spread towards communities.


UPDATE: Sunday, July 28, 7:45 a.m ... Despite strong winds, high temperatures and low humidity, fire crews were able to keep the Milepost 97 fire in Douglas County to under 9,000 acres on Saturday. But smoke from the fire continues to create poor air quality in some southwest Oregon communities.

Ground crews worked Saturday to establish fire line where the terrain and conditions allowed, as air support assisted. Officials say the fire is burning within a fire scar from 1987 filled with hazardous snags and overgrown brush.

Shifting winds caused the fire to spot across I-5 near the Turkey Creek/Milepost 94 area late in the afternoon. Both air and ground crews immediately responded and worked to contain the fires starts. Crews worked throughout the night to contain the spot fires and search for any additional starts.

As of midnight Saturday, acreage burned was put at 8,878, with 5 percent containment.

Air quality in the Rogue Valley had improved on Saturday morning, but by afternoon there were areas with Air Quality Index readings of "Unhealthy" and "Very Unhealthy."

As of 7:00 Sunday morning, AQI readings in the "Unhealthy" range were reported in Ashland, Talent, Grants Pass and Yreka, California. Klamath Falls registered as "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups," Cave Junction was rated ""Moderate" and Medford's air quality was actually in the "Good" range.

An Air Quality Advisory remain in effect for Jackson, Josephine, Curry and Klamath Counties through at least Monday morning.

The Orgon Department of Transportation advises motorists that southbound Interstate 5 is limited to a single lane south of Canyonville, from milepost 97-93, due to nearby wildfire. Southbound motorists should expect congestion and delays through the area due to heavy Sunday afternoon and evening traffic. Be prepared for smoky conditions, especially at night. Watch for emergency service vehicles exiting and entering the travel lanes. Both off-ramps at Exit 95 (Canyon Creek) remain closed. 

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office updated the evacuation levels and areas. The sheriffs' office issued a Level 2, “Get Set” evacuation level for all residences on the west side of the freeway between Interstate mileposts 88-83.All residences off of Upper Cow Creek Road starting at Interstate 5 milepost 88, east to the base of Galesville Dam were alsso elevated to a Level 2.

A Level 1 " Be Ready" notice is also being issued for all residents living on Windy Creek Road at and above Woods Creek Road. Barton Road south to Glendale Junction Road.

A community fire information meeting will take place tomorrow, July 28th, at Glendale High School at 7pm.


UPDATE: Saturday, July 27, 2019, 9:00 a.m. ... The Milepost 97 fire continues to grow in steep and unstable terrrain just off I-5 near Canyonville in Douglas County. Fire officials say this morning that the fire is estimated at just under 9,000 acres.

A Level 1 ("Get Ready") evacuation remains in place for all residences on the west side of the freeway between Interstate mileposts 88-83.  A Level 1 notice is also in effect for all residences off of Upper Cow Creek Road starting at Interstate 5 milepost 88, east to the base of Galesville Dam. 

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, southbound Interstate 5 is limited to a single lane from milepost 97-95, about two miles south of Canyonville. The lane closure is meant to allow fire crews to clear debris from the side of the road. Drivers should watch for possible congestion and delays and should anticipate smoky conditions. The northbound and southbound off-ramps at Exit 95 (Canyon Creek) remain closed. 

15 helicopters are currently assigned to the fire along with a host of large air tankers and smaller single engine air tankers. Close to 900 firefighters are currently assigned to the fire that are split into day and night shift operations.

Smoke levels in the Rogue and Illinois Valleys have improved somewhat this morning. As of 8:00 a.m., Air Quality Index readings were in the "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups" range for Medford, Ashland, Talent and Grants Pass, while Cave Junction, Prevolt and Klamath Falls register in the "Moderate" range. The only place with AQI readings in the "Unhealthy" range this morning is Yreka.

UPDATE: Friday, July 26, 5:15 p.m. ... Active fire behavior has been observed again today on the Milepost 97 fire, which is now estimated to be 6,000 acres in size. The majority of the fire growth has been to the south / southwest of the original fire and is burning through a mixture of private industrial timberlands, O&C Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and lands held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Cow Creek Tribe.


Both ground and aviation resources are currently engaged on the fire with seven helicopters, two large air tankers and two single engine air tankers supporting firefighters on the ground. More than 650 personnel are expected to be at the fire Saturday, including 25 hand crews.

Additional aviation resources and ground resources in the form of hand crews, engines, and heavy equipment have been ordered and are enroute to the incident.

UPDATE: Friday, July 26, 7:45 a.m. ... The Milepost 97 Fire continued to actively burn through the majority of the night, mainly pushing to the south and west. Currently, the fire is estimated to be 1,650 acres in size. Firefighters remain engaged on the fire and additional resources have been ordered. The fire is burning in very steep, rocky terrain with limited access into and around the fire.

UPDATE: Friday, July 26, 5:15 a.m. ...  According to the Douglas Forest Protective Association, the fire is located about a mile southeast of Canyonville, near milepost 97 of Interstate 5.  As of 10:00 p.m. Thursday, what officials are calling the Milepost 97 firehad grown to about 750 acres.  

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has issued a Level 3 "GO!"evacuation order for three homes near Exit 95 (Canyon Creek). Most of the fire is moving uphill, away from the highway and the towns of Canyonville and Riddle and the community of Azalea. Those areas are not considered threatened at this time and no evacuation orders have been issued in these areas.

Smoke from the fire has moved south, causing Air Quality Index readings to shoot up through the Rogue Valley. As of 4:00 a.m. Friday, AQI readings in Medford, Ashland and Talent were in the "Unhealthy" range, while Grants Pass registered "Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups."

The Oregon Department of Transportation reports the northbound and southbound off-ramps at Exit 95 are closed. Both on-ramps at Exit 95 remain open. The fire is highly visible from the interstate and officials are asking motorists to use caution when driving near fire equipment and personnel.

The fire is in a “fire scar” that burned in the 1980s; that area has a significant amount of dead trees and heavy brush. 

About 100 firefighters along with five helicopters and at least one air tanker are working to contain the fire.  

A preliminary investigation shows that the blaze was caused by an illegal campfire.