Milepost 97 Fire 100% contained, officials say

CANYONVILLE, Ore. -- The Milepost 97 Fire, burning south of Canyonville along Interstate 5, is 100% contained, fire officials say.

The Douglas Forest Protective Association and the Bureau of Land Management declared the fire fully contained at the end of the shift on Friday, Aug. 16.

The Milepost 97 Fire grew quickly after being sparked by an illegal campfire on July 24.

Officials said the fire will be in a patrol status moving forward. Residents may continue to see smoke until rain returns in the fall, but there is no threat to containment lines.

People should continue to avoid the area, officials said. Private landowners and public management agencies are still assessing the lands that were affected.

The DFPA and BLM thanked the agencies, landowners, cooperators and contractors who assisted with the fire and thanked the local communities for their support.

RELATED: MILEPOST 97 FIRE NOW 65% CONTAINED; COST ESTIMATED AT $19.1 MILLION

As of Tuesday, Aug. 6, the fire was 65% contained, 10% more than the day prior. At that time, fire officials said the blaze was at 13,119 acres and the cost was estimated to be $19.1 million.

The fire started July 24, caused by an abandoned, illegal campfire. Crews converged on the fire within 15 to 30 minutes, fire officials said, but the fire's location caused difficulties. It was actively burning along Interstate 5 in a old fire scar from the 1980s, where there was a significant amount of standing dead trees with heavy brush beneath them.

Officials said the steep and rocky terrain, falling trees, rolling rocks and strong winds presented challenges to firefighters in their efforts to contain the blaze.

Also, the area included private industrial timberlands, O&C Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and lands held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Cow Creek Tribe.

Fire activity picked up the day after it started as temperatures grew hotter, leading to evacuation notices -- including a Level 3 "Go" for residents in the 100 to 300 blocks of Ritchie Road -- but the fire was growing uphill away from Canyonville. 

An Oregon Department of Forestry team took command from the Douglas Forest Protective Association at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 26.

Then, that Saturday, shifting winds caused the Milepost 97 Fire to jump across Interstate 5 near the Turkey Creek area by milepost 94. ODF told KEZI 9 News both air and ground crews immediately responded. That night, 270 people -- 50% more than they had on Friday night -- worked to contain spot fires and search for additional ones.

A break in the heat and increased humidity helped firefighting efforts the week after.

"Today's a great day for opportunity," ODF Incident Commander Link Smith said on Monday, July 29, when the weather first started to cool down.

Officials said they had air support help to cool the fire’s edge so that firefighters could gain closer access. Helicopters and Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) are serving as the primary aviation resources on the fire. SEATs dropped 26 loads of retardant on the fire Monday -- a total of 18,549 gallons.

On Tuesday, July 30, firefighters preserved nearly 3,000 acres of timberland and likely saved tens of thousands of dollars in firefighting costs by building the line right up against the fire, officials said.

Due to the progress that was made, on Tuesday the Douglas County Sheriff's Office reduced the evacuation level from Level 3 "Go" to Level 2 "Be Set" for residents in the 100 to 300 blocks of Ritchie Road.

After firefighters made significant progress on the fire on Friday, Aug. 2, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office reduced evacuation levels from Level 2 to Level 1.

Ten days after its start, the fire was completely surrounded, and burnout operations allowed crews to secure lines, fall hazardous trees and mop up to prevent further spread. 

On Monday, Aug. 5, all evacuation notices were lifted as crews continued to make progress fighting the Milepost 97 Fire.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the change took effect at 10 a.m. The following residences are no longer under evacuation notices:

  • 100 to 300 blocks of Ritchie Road
  • West side of Interstate 5 between mileposts 88 and 83
    • Barton Road
    • Azalea Glen Road between mileposts 88 and Barton Road
    • Old Booth Lane
    • Harrel Lane
    • Hobbs Lane
    • Lizzie Lane
    • Fortune Branch Road on the Azalea-Glen side
    • Pack Lane
    • Forrest Road
    • Realty Road
    • Quines Creek Road
    • Mobley Drive
  • Upper Cow Creek Road starting at I-5 milepost 88, east to base of Galesville Dam

"There are no evacuation notices remaining in Douglas County at this time. However, we encourage everyone, no matter where they reside, to take time to think and plan for evacuations should the time come when a deputy is knocking on your door and telling you there is an imminent threat," Sgt. Brad O'Dell said. "Having a plan and knowing what you are going to do, what you are going to take and how you are going to execute your plan is critical in emergency situations."

ROAD CONDITIONS: LANE CLOSURES, DELAYS AND MORE

At least nine firefighters were injured during the fire. One firefighter was injured after being hit by rolling debris. Officials said that firefighter was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center and released. Another firefighter was taken to the hospital for a heat-related illness.

The fire also affected traffic, leading to lane closures and delays on Interstate 5. 

READ MORE: DCSO OFFERS ALERT SYSTEM

Officials with the Oregon Department of Transportation said Interstate 5 Southbound was limited to a single lane from milepost 97 to 95, about two miles south of Canyonville. They said the lane closure was allowing fire crews to clear debris from the side of the road. The northbound and southbound off-ramps at Exit 95 were closed.

ODOT officials said to watch out for possible congestion and delays. For the latest road conditions, click here.

READ ON: MILEPOST 97 FIRE AT 1,650 ACRES

Officials said thousands of acres of timberland, millions of dollars in fire suppression costs and hundreds of homes and lives have been saved.

And although the Milepost 97 Fire is under control, fire officials are warning the public that fire danger is currently high to extreme across Oregon. Many activities that could potentially start a fire are prohibited or restricted.

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