A fire ripped through a hay field in the upper Applegate Valley Thursday in near-record heat, spooking residents and firefighters, too, as flames jumped into trees and raced toward homes.
"It was going fast into the trees and it looked like it could get away from us," said Chris Wolfard, operations chief with Applegate Fire District No. 9.
With help from an air tanker that dropped loads of fire retardant and three helicopters dropping water, crews corralled the blaze in roughly an hour, fire officials said.
"We had the resources to get in real hard and real fast and keep it small," Wolfard said.
Other area fires
In other parts of Jackson County, crews battled a larger, human-caused fire near Lost Creek Lake and a string of small, lightning-caused fires in the High Cascades.
The Burnt Peak fire broke out Wednesday afternoon near Joseph Stewart State Park on Highway 62 east of Medford and had spread to 160 acres by Thursday morning, the department of forestry reported.
About 100 people worked the fire Thursday, improving containment lines in the steep, rugged area where the fire was burning. A line had been scratched around the fire, but with the difficult terrain and hot weather, officials weren't calling it contained yet.
Fifty firefighters were expected to work through Thursday night to strengthen containment lines, said Dan Thorpe, district forester for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Thorpe said 12 lightning strikes were recorded in Jackson County Wednesday night, but ODF detected just one small fire.
Seven small fires were reported on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Six were high in the Cascades between the Rogue-Umpqua Divide and Sky Lakes wilderness area, said forest spokesman Patty Burel. One was near Fish Lake.
Fire crews, including rappellers who descend from helicopters, were assigned to the fires, which were all less than half an acre.
Fire and forest officials started aerial surveillance at 9 a.m. Thursday, and several flights are planned daily over the next few days to continue monitoring the ridge tops for fires that may smolder for days and then come to life.
A fire weather watch issued by the National Weather Service was to be in effect through Sunday. Forecasters warned that thunderstorms and gusty southwest winds could spark fires in vegetation parched by recent record-breaking heat.
In Northern California, lightning on Wednesday sparked four new fires in the Trinity Alps Wilderness near the Canyon Creek area north of Junction City, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest reported. Two burning close together — dubbed the Jacket and Lower fires — burned a total of roughly 8 acres before being contained Thursday. Another nearby burned only a single tree.
The Jones fire had burned about 37 acres by Thursday afternoon and was 50 percent contained with 289 people working on it.
To the north, the Williams Creek fire, roughly 15 miles east of Glide in the Umpqua National Forest, had burned 1,465 acres by Thursday afternoon. It started Tuesday afternoon.
Highway 138 was closed there because burning debris and rolling rocks were littering the roadway, fire officials reported on inciweb.org, an online information source for wildfires. Power lines in the area also are threatened and some have been damaged. Fire managers reported that the forest around the Williams Creek fire is at high risk for large, rapid expansion of the blaze.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.