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Thursday Update: Rain, Cooler Temps Dampen Rogue River Drive Fire

UPDATE: THURSDAY, August 14, 10:30 AM

A let-up in thunderstorm activity -- plus significant rainfall and cloud cover -- has helped fire crews get a handle  on the fire between Shady Cove and Eagle Point in Jackson County.  

Brian Ballou, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Forestry, told JPR that the shift in the weather has been a huge help to firefighters.

"The rain on Wednesday morning was very welcome ... It helps us out quite a lot. Fire activity is very low and we're trying to to take real advantage of the change in the weather to get a lot of hot spots inside the fire line ... totally extinguished."

Ballou said new measurements show the fire at 492 acres. It's completely surrounded by fire line, but is only 45 percent contained.

Previous evacuation orders have been lifted, but road closures are still in effect in the area to keep civilian traffic from interfering with heavy fire-equipment traffic. 

The state Fire Marshal team --  sent after Governor John Kitzhaber declared a fire emergency Tuesday night when the fire was exploding out of control -- has been demobilized and sent back to Salem. The fire is now under local management.

UPDATE:   WEDNESDAY, August 13, 12:30 PM

A thunderstorm brought erratic winds that caused the fire near Eagle Point to jump its containment lines yesterday afternoon. That led to the fire growing dramatically overnight. It's now up to at least 600 acres.

"We  chased the fire basically all day," said Fire District Three spokesperson Don Hickman. "We had a pretty impressive air show out here with three air tankers and about eight helicopters working round-robin."

Cooler temperatures and heavy rain in the area overnight and through Wednesday morning  helped firefighters make progress at getting containment. The fire is estimated at 10 percent contained.

Hickman told JPR that crews hope to use the break in the weather to get the fire completely lined by the end of Wednesday and start strengthening those lines to improve containment .

A mandatory Level Three (Get Out Now) evacuation order is still in place for Dry Creek Road, although so far none of the three homeowners in that neighborhood has chosen to evacuate. Hickman says firefighters have worked with the homeowners to protect those properties.

UPDATE: TUESDAY, August 12, 11:25 PM

The Rogue River Drive Fire jumped containment lines and nearly tripled in size Tuesday, threatening more than 100 homes and forcing new and mandatory evacuation notices.

The Jackson County Sheriff's office issued a Level 3 ("get out now") evacuation alert around 8:30 PM Tuesday for residents of Dry Creek Road near Eagle Point.

Tuesday evening, Governor John Kitzhaber found the need for assistance exceeded the available local firefighting resources and invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act. That authorizes the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal to mobilize equipment and personnel from around the state to help battle the growing blaze.

Fire crews had held the fire to roughly 100 acres after it broke out Monday, but winds pushed the fire over containment lines and burned dozens more acres Tuesday afternoon and evening. The fire was estimated to be about 300 acres by late Tuesday night.

A Level 1 ("get ready") evacuation notice had already gone out to residents of Rogue River Drive, from the 3000 block to Rhodes Lane, including Kitty Drive and Osprey Drive.

The fire is west of the Rogue River, between Eagle Point and Shady Cove. It is believed to have started in a lightning strike Monday; additional lightning strikes landed on the Rogue Valley Tuesday afternoon.  

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.