One firefighter was injured by debris rolling down the steep hills near Canyonville, the site of the Milepost 97 fire. The fire has grown to at least 11,600 acres according to reports on Monday morning, and fire officials say it is about 10 percent contained.
The injured firefighter was evacuated safely and sent to Rogue Valley Medical Center for treatment. According to Oregon Department of Forestry officials, at least five firefighters had been injured as of Monday morning.
Over 1,000 personnel arrived in southern Oregon over the weekend to try and contain the rapidly-growing blaze, which grew from a few dozen acres to its current size in just six days. According to preliminary investigations, it is believed that the cause was an illegal campfire. It is the first major fire in what was until recently a somewhat peaceful fire season.
A community meeting for Glendale and Azalea, OR drew over 500 of the area’s 887 residents to get more information about the fire. Officials laid out the scope of the threat posed by a fire this size: its proximity to Interstate 5, vulnerable power lines, natural gas pipelines, communications lines and even a water intake supply for the city of Canyonville.
The fire is currently visible from Interstate 5, causing traffic and slowdowns from those slowing down to see the fire as well as decreased visibility from smoke in the area.
“This is a full suppression incident. We’re not managing fire, we’re not allowing things to burn. We know the values at risk out there.” said Link Smith, incident commander for the ODF team. “And we are giving this thing everything we have to try and put it out,”
Although Governor Kate Brown has not yet declared a “conflagration” for the Milepost 97 fire, which would allow the state fire marshal to direct more resources to fight it, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized federal funds to help with firefighting costs.
By Ian MacRonald