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Regional Interests

Wildfires grow, prompting road closures and smoke advisories in Southern, Central Oregon

Air quality advisories are in effect for a large swathe of South and Central Oregon as two large wildfires in the region burn through forests, forcing road closures and prompting evacuation orders in some rural communities.

The Bootleg Fire in Klamath County, which started Tuesday, had grown to nearly 39,000 acres by Friday morning. It’s burning in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, near the community of Sprague River, prompting closures of public lands and evacuations of some rural residents of the area. The state fire marshal said the fire is threatening lives, structures, and property as it moves to the south and east.

And at zero percent contained, it’s likely to grow.

“The fuels are as dry as they would be at the end of a typical summer,” said Gayne Sears with the U.S. Forest Service. She said there’s a high probability every errant spark will start a new fire. ”Based on the fuel conditions and the weather conditions, it’s gonna get much larger.”

Hot, dry weather conditions along with lightning are forecast in other portions of Oregon in the coming days, as well, Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said. With high temperatures and weather conditions helping fires grow quickly, her office has asked all Oregonians to be cautious and to work to prevent fires.

In Douglas County, meanwhile, the Jack Fire was burning more than 5,400 acres on forest lands east of Roseburg as of Friday morning. A stretch of Highway 138 is closed due to falling rocks and flames along the roadside. To access Roseburg from the Cascade Mountains, drivers will need to find alternative routes or approach from Crater National Park.

A Level 3, or “go now,” order is in effect for recreation areas, homes and businesses along an eight-mile stretch of Oregon Highway 138 East, also known as North Umpqua Highway, with specifics posted online by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

An air quality advisory is in effect for Klamath and Lake counties, and parts of Douglas and Jackson counties, due to heavy smoke from both fires.

The advisory will be in effect until at least Monday morning, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Oregon 138 East, or North Umpqua Highway, is closed between mile posts 40 and 55 as the Jack Fire burns along both sides of the roadway.
Oregon Department of Transportation /
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Oregon 138 East, or North Umpqua Highway, is closed between mile posts 40 and 55 as the Jack Fire burns along both sides of the roadway.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting