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Battle against big blazes continues under tough conditions

 Posted: 4:55 PM July 31, 2013

Fire crews are struggling to make progress against wildfires that have burned more than 35,000 acres and shrouded Southern Oregon in smoke so thick firefighters can't see to work.

More than 3,500 firefighters from throughout Oregon and around the nation have been deployed to battle the growing blazes, fire officials said.

"We are not short of resources," said Don Ferguson, spokesman for the command center organizing the fire fight.

However, crews are still looking for a little help from Mother Nature, he said. The fact the wind picked up late this afternoon could help the firefighters on the fire lines, providing it helps clear the air while not fanning the flames, he said.

"It will help clear out some of the smoke — what we really need is to be able to see what we are doing," explained the veteran firefighter. "Folks are waiting to get good visuals before sending people in there."

As of late today, no homes had burned and no major injuries had been reported.

"That means we are winning," Ferguson said.

The prognosis for containment is better on the fires where there is road access, he said.

"When the humidity comes up a little, then we will have road access to go direct," he said of putting fire lines up against a fire. "Those are the ones we will be able to put away first."

However, the remote Labrador and Big Windy Complex fires where there are no roads will be a challenge, he said.

"On those, we will have to build lines a long way away from the fire and do a lot of burning out," he said of burning the fuel between the main fire and the fire lines.

The Labrador fire is burning half a dozen air miles west of Selma on the edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The Big Windy Complex fire is about 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass in the lower Rogue River drainage

Douglas Complex fire some seven miles north of Glendale remains the largest blaze.

— Paul Fattig

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