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Crews continue the fight against region's fires

 Posted: 10:45 AM August 15, 2013

Two out of three largest lightning-sparked wildfires burning in southwest Oregon are more than halfway contained.

Crews fighting the Douglas Complex burning seven miles outside Glendale, and the Whiskey Complex outside Tiller, reported 55 containment on both blazes today. The Big Windy Complex, burning closest to the Rogue River, remains at 15 percent containment.

Officials at the Douglas Complex reported they are in the midst of a multiple-day burnout plan that will contain the fire's most troublesome portion, located west of Reuben Creek at the Dads Creek fire. Crews are working on drawing a containment line along the ridge top.

"There are so many trees in that area, and it's so steep coming up the side," said Dave Wells with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Wells added that slightly cooler temperatures have aided firefighters the past two days.

"It's just about perfect for burning right now for us. It's not extremely hot; it's not extremely dry," Wells said.

The Douglas Complex has grown to nearly 46,000 acres. No official containment date has been established.

Crews at the Whiskey Complex are seeing similar progress with their burnout work, as rains from last week's thunderstorms have dried. Firefighters remain focused on the eastern flank, drawing firelines along U.S. Forest Service Road 2925.

"We've got a lot of open line on that east and southeast side that's going to be very critical that we get tied in before we start feeling any relief," said spokeswoman Pam Sichting, an official with the Umpqua National Forest. "We've been prepping for the last several days."

The Big Windy fire, which continues to burn near the lower Rogue River, has burned 15,700 acres and is just 15 percent contained. A key focus for firefighters is the southeast flank, located about five miles west of Galice, where burnout operations continue at the top of a ridge up from Howard Creek.

"We want to be ready," said Howard Hunter, fire public information officer and retired U.S. Bureau of Land Management official. "If we don't hold it there, we're talking about another little piece of geography."

A fire line is drawn on the western flank, with the northern line about two days out from completion. That line has been laid as a precaution in case flames jump the river.

The Wild section of the Rogue River remains open to boaters with restrictions. Fire officials urge boaters put in and take out at the river's Argo and Alameda boat launch sites to prevent congestion at the Grave Creek launch site. Fire crews are using the Grave Creek location to load and unload firefighters and supplies onto the river. Water tenders are also coming to the launch to refill.

-- Ryan Pfeil

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