Crews make progress on fires, but hot weather looms

Crews make progress on fires, but hot weather looms

GLENDALE, Ore. (AP) — Two fire crews from Lane and Linn counties returned home Sunday after over a week of fighting the Douglas Complex fires burning near Glendale.

With the help of a mild weather forecast through the weekend firefighters made significant progress on slowing the complex of fires burning nearly 35,000 acres across Douglas County.

The immediate threat to buildings near Glendale, Ore. has decreased, and officials demobilized two of the four 'structural task forces' working the nearby Dad's Creek fire. Task forces from Benton and Lincoln counties remained on scene while crews from Lane and Linn counties headed home Sunday.

After about eight days away, the firefighters from departments across Lane and Linn county returned home.

Brandt Enright, a firefighter with the Coburg Fire Department is one of sixteen firefighters from the Lane County crew that was disbanded Sunday.

“It feels good to be at home...and be able to relax and sleep in my own bed,” said Enright. “I've been on a couple of these deployments, but I've never been on one of this magnitude."

Enright told our news team he came home with a battle scar from fighting the Dad’s Creek fire. 

“A rock fell down, bounced off the side of the hill, and hit me in the leg," Enright said.

While injuries like these are part of the physical hazards of fighting wildfires, Jason Wallace of the Mohawk Valley Fire Department said each firefighter also faces a test of mental strength. 

“Being away from home, the long hours, sleeping on the ground in a tent... the mental aspect is what i think weight on you the most,” said Wallace.

Lane County Defense Chief Chad Minter said these firefighters worked about 16 to 20 hours per day.

With the Douglas Complex fires now 15 percent contained, the over 2,400 firefighters working the blaze will have plenty more long days ahead.

 

“Make sure you watch out for yourself … watch out for your crew,” Wallace advised firefighters headed to fight the complex. “There's a lot of hazards in the area we don't really see around here. It's a different country." 

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In spite of the progress made over the past few days, the fire is considered 15 percent contained. Officials are worried that Sunday's lower humidity and higher temperatures could increase fire activity.

Officials want to remind people that while people are being allowed back into their homes, some residences are considered threatened.

Here's the latest from the Oregon State Fire Marshal on the three main Douglas Complex fires:

Rabbit Mountain - 15,652 acres

A planned burn in the Darby Creek drainage will increase smoke in the area. A burnout was started overnight on the southeast corner and burnout operations will continue through the day shift. The containment line along the eastern side of the fire held yesterday with some mop up started. A combination of direct and indirect line construction has been completed from Middle Creek north and then south to Cow Creek. These lines will continue to be tested with the change in weather conditions today.

Dad's Creek - 18,548 acres

The south end of the fire continues to burn actively near Grave Creek. Successful firing operations were conducted overnight from the ridge south of Glendale to Grave Creek.

Approximately 30 homes remain threatened in the Grave Creek, Poorman Creek, and Lower Wolf Creek areas. There will be fewer structure engines working the fire, but protection will continue in the Grave Creek and Wolf Creek area today.

Farmer's Creek and Miscellaneous Small Fires - 259 acres

Firefighters will continue mopping up these fires. No further fire activity is expected. This will be the last report on Farmer's Creek and the other smaller fires within the Complex.

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Another group of fires in Douglas County, the Whiskey Complex, was burning close to 5,000 acres east of Tiller. It was 20 percent contained, but incident commander Ross Williams said he was worried fire activity could peak on Monday.

The Big Windy Complex was scorching 7,500 acres in steep, forested terrain in Josephine and Curry counties as more than 1,000 people tried to fight it while avoiding bee stings and ankle sprains.

The Labrador Fire was burning in inaccessible country 30 miles southwest of Grants Pass, and theBrimstone Fire 10 miles northwest of Merlin had burned 2,300 acres and caused some road closures.