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Fire crews respond to multiple wildfires for second straight day

A firefighter works on the front lines of the Highway 62 MM 42 fire outside Prospect Thursday. ODF photo

Firefighters from the Oregon Department of Forestry responded to three brush fires Thursday after scrambling to contain six the day before, agency officials reported.

The first blaze popped up at 3 p.m. Thursday in Josephine County in the 600 block of Brimstone Road near Merlin, according to ODF public information officer Natalie Weber. Engines from Rural/Metro Fire and the Wolf Creek Rural Fire Protection District also responded to aid ODF crews, which arrived on two engines. Crews contained the fire at a half acre.

Fifteen minutes later, crews flocked to a fire in Jackson County along Highway 62 just outside Prospect. Dubbed the Highway 62 MM 42 fire, it had grown to two acres by the time the first crews arrived. Wind spurred its growth, and it expanded to more than six acres before crews got the upper hand.

“The winds really did pick up yesterday afternoon, and that fueled the fire a lot,” Weber said. “For a couple weeks there, we were seeing the warm conditions and the wind, and then the wind died down. But (Thursday) it picked back up, and it did impact the fire behavior that we saw.”

Firefighters from the Prospect Rural Fire Protection District, Jackson County Fire District No. 4, out of Shady Cove, and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest also responded.

Containment efforts prompted a slowdown for traffic on Highway 62, officials said, but no closures were put in place.

Crews responded to a third fire near the intersection of Soda Mountain Road and Highway 66, at 6:05 p.m., according to dispatch records.

Crews from the Greensprings Rural Fire District and Jackson County Fire District No. 5 also responded. Officials estimated the blaze’s initial size to be 1-1/2 acres, but additional details on containment efforts and growth were not immediately available.

Causes for the three fires were not immediately available. Officials also continued to investigate the causes of the six fires from Wednesday, but said in a news release that they do not appear to be connected.

There is a slight chance for some weekend rain in parts of southwest Oregon, and officials said more rain is needed.

Fire officials urged people to be extra diligent when it comes to debris burns, saying burn-day designations can change midday, though that’s rare. It happened Thursday as warm, breezy conditions continued to worsen.

“A lot of people who had started their debris burns who maybe called the line, that had changed, and so we had a lot of burns going that shouldn’t have been at that point,” Weber said. “So I would caution people in these conditions. When we’re seeing the heat and the wind, even if it’s a burn day, call throughout the day and just make sure that hasn’t been canceled, because that does happen sometimes.”

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanpfeil.