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Rum Creek Fire grows to over 10,000 acres, evacuation warnings reach Merlin

Two wildland firefighters in yellow protective gear wrap a wood cabin in aluminum foil. One firefighter is up on a ladder, wrapping the foil up near the roof.
Bureau of Land Management
Wildland firefighters wrap up the historic Whiskey Creek Cabin in protective foil

The Rum Creek fire has grown to over 10,000 acres, becoming the largest active wildfire in the state according to officials.

The wildfire is burning approximately 15 miles northwest of Grants Pass, along the Rogue River near the communities of Galice and Rand.

Spokesperson Kyle Reed with the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal says the fire is growing so fast in part because of the rugged, heavily forested terrain.

“When you combine that with the weather we’ve seen, with hot, dry conditions and gusty afternoon evening winds, that typically fans the fire,” he says.

Reed says the fire is currently spreading south, with some east-west movement. The northern edge of the fire has yet to jump the Rogue River north from Lower Grave Creek Road.

Additional level 2 - “be set” and level 1 - “be ready” evacuation notices were issued Sunday evening in and around Merlin.

So far officials have confirmed that one residence and two other structures have been destroyed in the fire. OSFM has six task forces and one hand crew currently working on structure protection in the areas around Galice, Rand and Almeda.

Teams are also working on the eastern side of the fire to slow its spread towards I-5 and areas of higher population – like Merlin, Pleasant Valley and Hugo – building fire lines between Stratton Creek and Grave Creek Roads.

Over the weekend Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency across Oregon due to "imminent threat of wildfire."

"Much of the state continues to experience high temperatures, wind, storms with dry lightning, and persistent drought. With the extended forecast in Oregon calling for continued warm and dry conditions—and with many parts of the state in drought emergencies—the threat of wildfire in Oregon is imminent," the statement from the governor's office reads.

Temperatures in Grants Pass are forecast to hover around 100 degrees through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Current weather conditions mean smoke from the wildfire will stick around Curry, Jackson and Josephine counties through Thursday, creating unhealthy conditions in some areas.

A wildfire evacuation center for the Rum Creek Fire is being held at the Josephine County Fairgrounds in Grants Pass. The facility is available for wildfire evacuees as well as livestock.

The Rogue River is closed to boating from Hog Creek until conditions improve. The Bureau of Land Management says river access for current permit holders will be allowed on a day-to-day basis starting on Wednesday.

There has been one fatality associated with the Rum Creek Fire. Logan Taylor of Talent, Oregon was struck by a tree and killed on August 18 while working. Taylor was the owner and operator of Sasquatch Reforestation, a local forestry company.

The Oregon Fire Marshal's Office has a public information line for the Rum Creek Fire staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The number is 541-625-0849.

Additional resources and information can be foundhere.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.
Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.