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Rogue Valley Air Reaches 'Very Unhealthy' Status As Wildfires Grow

<p>Smoke from the Garner Complex fires blots out the sunset in southern Oregon.</p>

Oregon Department of Forestry


Smoke from the Garner Complex fires blots out the sunset in southern Oregon.

Wildfire smoke continued to collect in the Rogue Valley air Sunday, sending air quality readings into the Very Unhealthy range for the first time since lightning started the fires a week ago.

By sundown, the Medford air reading for smoke stood at 243, well above the 200 line between Unhealthy and Very Unhealthy.  Ashland's reading was 213 at the same time.  Grants Pass and Williams remained in the Unhealthy category. 

The main source of the smoke, the Garner Complex of fires burning in northern Jackson and Josephine Counties, continued to grow, with evacuation warnings added or strengthened.

The Taylor Creek Fire in Josephine County led to Level 3 ("Go") and Level 2 evacuations on Limpy Creek, Shan Creek and Limpy Creek Roads.  Evacuation orders were also expanded in Jackson County for the Grave No. 3 fire, part of the same complex.

The Oregon Department of Forestry announced early Sunday that National Guard troops had arrived to help with security in fire zones. And additional structural fire task forces arrived to help protect homes.

The agencies fighting the Garner Complex fires announced a community meeting for Monday at 6 p.m. at North Valley High School, to give a briefing on the status of firefighting and evacuations.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared the Garner Complex a conflagration on Saturday, freeing up resources from all over the state to assist in the firefighting effort.

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Geoffrey Riley is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has hosted the Jefferson Exchange on JPR since 2009. He's been a broadcaster in the Rogue Valley for more than 35 years, working in both television and radio.