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September 4, 2014
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UPDATE: Grass fires burn about 80 acres along I-5 south of Roseburg

A series of grass fires sparked by a vehicle traveling north on Interstate 5 burned about 80 acres Thursday between Myrtle Creek and Roberts Mountain, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

DFPA spokesman Kyle Reed said about 10 fires ignited along the east side of northbound I-5 around 6:30 p.m. He said the majority of the blazes were concentrated between Exit 108 at Myrtle Creek and Milepost 116 near the bottom of Roberts Mountain.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said emergency dispatch received reports of the fires ranging from Milepost 101 to 116.

Fire personnel have not yet determined the total number of fire starts because several of the blazes merged together, he said.

“Once we get a handle on the fires and make them more safe, we will go around them with a GPS to get a more accurate mapping,” Reed said.

Fire agencies around Douglas County worked long into the night completing fire trails around the Clarks Branch Complex by hand and with bulldozers. About 70 firefighters remained at the site this morning, improving control lines and mopping up hot spots, Reed said.

Neighboring fire districts, including the Umpqua National Forest, Coos Forest Protective Association, and East and West Lane assisted, he said. The Oregon Department of Transportation and local law enforcement, including the sheriff’s office, Oregon State Police and Myrtle Creek Police Department also assisted.

“It was a huge effort from everyone,” Reed said.

No injuries were reported.

Fire investigators are also at the scene today determining the fires’ point of origin and exact cause, he said.

Reed said the fires threatened several homes near Wagontire Drive off of Clarks Branch Road, but no structures were damaged. Authorities notified residents earlier in the evening to stand by in case of an evacuation.

A reverse 911 call also went out to residents within a 2-mile radius of the fires, he said.

“(Fire personnel) had done some fuel reduction work several years ago in the area, which created defensible space around homes,” Reed said.

Three helicopters were called in to help extinguish the blazes.

The DFPA also responded with three bulldozers.

Fire personnel will be out checking on the landscape during the next week, Reed said. Motorists should use caution while traveling in the area.

Reed said most of Western Oregon has a red-flag warning, but Douglas County isn’t included.

Still, another hot streak is on its way today and over the weekend.

Temperatures in Roseburg are expected to reach 98 degrees today, 101 degrees Saturday and 94 degrees Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Things will cool off a bit beginning next week, but will still remain in the high 80s Monday.

Reed said he’s concerned about the hot, dry weather and eastern winds blowing through the county.

“East winds can be very damaging and help fuel fire,” he said. “It’s going to be some critical burning conditions over the next few days.”

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and jprokop@nrtoday.com.

This version of the story appeared earlier online:

Fire agencies around Douglas County continue to battle multiple blazes into the night along the east side of northbound Interstate 5 between Exit 108 near Myrtle Creek and Exit 113 near Roberts Mountain, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

DFPA spokesman Kyle Reed said about a dozen fires ignited from a vehicle traveling north on I-5 around 6:30 p.m.

The fires have burned approximately 60 to 80 acres, he said.

Crews have created a trail halfway around the two largest fires and are still working on the smaller blazes, Reed said.

“We hope to get a line around everything then work on the interior,” he said.

Reed said fire personnel hope to have the blazes fully contained by the morning.

The fires threatened several homes in the Clarks Branch area, but no structures were damaged, he said. Authorities did notify residents earlier in the evening to standby in case of an evacuation.

A reverse 911 call also went out within a 2 mile radius of Myrtle Creek and Clarks Branch Road, he said.

Reed said fire crews have been using three helicopters to extinguish the blazes.

“That’s helped us tremendously in getting these fires knocked down,” he said.

The DFPA asks motorists to use caution while traveling in the area over the next few days.

According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the emergency dispatch center is being inundated with calls about the fires. People should only call 911 if they have an emergency.

Fire crews are working on suppressing the fires as far as Milepost 101 to 116, the sheriff’s office said.

• • •

Below is the previous version of this story, posted earlier Thursday night:

Fire agencies around Douglas County are battling multiple blazes along the east side of northbound Interstate 5 between Exit 108 near Myrtle Creek and Exit 113 near Roberts Mountain, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

DFPA spokesman Kyle Reed said the fires ignited around 6:30 p.m. It’s unclear how many fires there are and their sizes, he said.

The cause of the fires is under investigation.

Reed said the fires have threatened several homes in the Clarks Branch area. Authorities have notified residents to standby in case of an evacuation.

A reverse 911 call also went out within a 2 mile radius of Myrtle Creek and Clarks Branch Road, he said.

Reed said fire crews are using three helicopters to extinguish the blazes.

“That’s helped us tremendously in getting these fires knocked down,” he said.

The DFPA asks motorists to use caution while traveling in the area.

According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the emergency dispatch center is being inundated with calls about the fires. People should only call 911 if they have an emergency.

Fire crews are working on suppressing the fires as far as Milepost 101 to 116, the sheriff’s office said.

• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and jprokop@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Sep 5, 2014 12:54PM Published Sep 15, 2014 09:17AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.