A wildfire burning near Prospect has reached 600 acres and is continuing to grow, prompting Gov. Kate Brown to declare it a conflagration in order to marshal more resources to fight it.
Exacerbated by winds, dry conditions and lighting, the Flounce fire, sparked Monday about two miles from Lost Creek Lake, reached 600 acres Tuesday evening, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. (Corrected online: see below)
The governor's declaration allows the fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to help protect structures.
About 50 homeowners were on Level 1 alert near Evergreen Drive and Lewis Road in Prospect, northeast of Lost Creek Lake, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The TouVelle State Recreation Site off Table Rock Road outside of Eagle Point is closed to the public, as ODF firefighters are using the park as a base of operations for fighting the Flounce fire.
Lighting struck Jackson County 204 times between 1 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Smith. Firefighters were battling lightning-sparked fires throughout the evening, according to emergency traffic.
A red flag warning has been issued for noon to 10 p.m. today, and a fire weather watch has been issued for most of Thursday because of the severe conditions ripe for more fires and fire spread, the National Weather Service says.
In addition to the Flounce fire, several other wildfires were started by lightning late Monday, including an 11-acre blaze on Old Emigrant Creek Road near Ashland. Crews from ODF, Ashland Fire & Rescue and Jackson County Fire District 5 stopped its growth, ODF public information officer Melissa Cano said.
The lightning-caused Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake fires continue to burn outside Prospect and along the western boundary of Crater Lake National Park. Firefighters for those two blazes are based out of Joseph Stewart State Park at Lost Creek Lake.
A Level 1 evacuation notice has been issued for Crater Lake's Rim Village and the park’s headquarters area after the Spruce Lake fire reached West Rim Drive over the weekend.
Burning since July 29, it was at 4,681 acres in size and 19 percent contained. Growth on the Spruce Lake fire has slowed.
"It's kind of getting to that area where it's hitting sparser fuels," said fire public information officer Kyle Warden. "That's what (fire crews) were hoping for and anticipating, that it would dwindle down as far as the fuels go."
The Blanket Creek fire, a lightning-sparked blaze that started July 25 about nine miles northeast of Prospect, had grown to 4,739 acres Tuesday. It is considered 37 percent contained.
West Rim Drive remains closed from Rim Village to North Junction, as does the Pacific Crest Trail from the park’s southern boundary to Highway 62, and from the intersection of the Dutton Creek Trail north to the North Entrance Road. The Union Peak, Stuart Falls, Pumice Flat, Boundary Springs, Bald Crater Loop, Bert Creek, Discovery Point and Lightning Springs trails are closed inside the park, as is the Rim Trail from Discovery Point to North Junction.
Smoke from the Blanket Creek and Spruce Lake fires, along with the Chetco Bar fire burning in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Curry County, has caused air quality to dip to "moderate" for much of southwestern Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index. A change in the winds wouldn't make much of a dent, so an air quality alert is in effect for the region until further notice.
"Unfortunately, we're pretty much surrounded by fires at this point, so wind shift may not help us too much," National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Schaaf said.
Correction: This report initially stated that the fire had reached 1,000 acres in size based on information from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office. Oregon Department of Forestry officials, who had mapped the fire Tuesday evening, said that number is incorrect, and that it was actually about 600 acres in size.
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.