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DailyTidings.com
  • Fires force families to make hard choices

    Many evacuated, but some stayed as flames approached
  • GLENDALE — The Wytcherley family home sits right where the old Reuben general store once did, across Cow Creek Road from an old sawmill site, five miles west of Glendale.
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    • Update on region's wildfires
      Big Windy
      Location: 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass
      Size: 15,447 acres
      Personnel: 1,330
      Containment: 15 percent
      Expected full containment: Sept. 1
      Brimstone
      Location: 7 miles...
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      Update on region's wildfires
      Big Windy

      Location: 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass

      Size: 15,447 acres

      Personnel: 1,330

      Containment: 15 percent

      Expected full containment: Sept. 1

      Brimstone

      Location: 7 miles northwest of Merlin

      Size: 2,372

      Personnel: 85

      Containment: 100 percent on Aug. 5

      Whiskey Complex

      Location: 6 miles east of Tiller

      Size: 11,471 acres

      Personnel: 558

      Containment: 55 percent

      Expected full containment: Aug. 20

      Labrador

      Location: 13 miles northwest of

      Cave Junction

      Size: 2,022 acres

      Personnel: 77

      Containment: Not known

      Douglas Complex

      Location: 7 miles north of Glendale

      Size: 45,533 acres

      Containment: 50 percent

      Salmon River Complex

      Location: Sawyers Bar, Calif.

      Size: 11,698 acres

      Personnel: 1,148

      Containment: 45 percent

      Orleans Complex

      Location: 10 miles east of Somes Bar, Calif.

      Size: 12,460 acres

      Personnel: 938

      Containment: 22 percent

      Expected full containment: Sept. 15
  • GLENDALE — The Wytcherley family home sits right where the old Reuben general store once did, across Cow Creek Road from an old sawmill site, five miles west of Glendale.
    Since the Douglas Complex fires took off nearly three weeks ago, Chris, his wife, Brandi, their three children and a friend, Jeremiah Smith, held the fort on their 115-acre spread called Reuben Ranch.
    They've weathered the storm — flames, lines of fire trucks, choking smoke and a deputy screaming at them to evacuate.
    "We watched that mountain go up in an inferno," said Chris, pointing across Cow Creek to the south. "We took turns fire-watching. It sounded like a jet engine. At 3 a.m., we could feel heat waves."
    That was Saturday, July 27, a day after lightning sparked the Rabbit Mountain and Dad's Creek fires. Dad's Creek advanced to within a couple of football fields of their home, burning 60 acres of timber on their property.
    A line of 100 firefighters, a bulldozer and a Chinook helicopter the next day helped saved the day.
    "You can see where they held the line," Brandi said.
    Sixteen-year-old Matthew celebrated his birthday that day.
    "It was a big surprise of candles," 13-year-old Christian joked, standing on the blackened earth by the fire line.
    Christian and Caleb, 11, took turns watering the roof.
    When the fire was just a plume, on July 26, Caleb put his hand through a window, so the family was in Grants Pass getting him stitched up when their cellphones "blew up" with the news.
    When they got home, already six trucks were there, and the fire was raging on the mountain.
    "That's when we knew it was serious," Brandi said, holding up her phone with photos of smoke on the ridge and a nighttime red glow.
    Numerous other families along Cow Creek, McCullough Creek and Mount Reuben roads across Cow Creek followed warnings and evacuated.
    The Wytcherleys packed their computer tower, photo albums and a couple of family heirlooms, but decided to stick it out, other than Brandi and the children leaving during a few of the worst hours. Chris said he wanted to be there to stomp out any spot fires.
    They saw unknown vehicles pull into the driveway and someone on a bicycle with a backpack along Cow Creek Road.
    "That was a big reason we stayed. We didn't want to get broken into, with all these empty houses around," Chris said. "A guy was casing the place."
    Chris said a Douglas County sheriff's deputy made a second pass by the house and screamed, "Nothing's worth your life! Get out of here!"
    "We weren't going to do anything heroic or anything like that," Chris said. "I told Brandi to get the kids out, but I'm like,'I have to go back.' " It turned out Brandi and the children were gone less than a day.
    On Facebook, they heard they had lost the ranch, one of a few rumors on the social media.
    "Social media helped with some things and didn't help with others," Brandi said.
    The fire threat eased two days later, but it hasn't been a picnic since the residents in the area were officially allowed to return home within the last week.
    Thick smoke didn't lift until three days ago, and fire trucks rumble past day and night, with rush hour in the morning and evening. Helicopters clatter overhead all day and occasionally at night.
    On Tuesday, smoke curled above the spring up the hill from the house, requiring a fire crew to extinguish the hot spot.
    But life has reached a semblance of order in the face of the wildfires. The boys are starting to play football, and the parents are back at work.
    "We're getting used to it," Brandi said.
    Reach Grants Pass Daily Courier reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com.
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