Wildfires burning throughout southern Oregon poured smoke into central Douglas County on Saturday afternoon, creating a haze so thick it almost felt like breathing soot.
A new 350-acre fire was burning outside of Olalla on Saturday and zero percent contained.
Kyle Reed, a spokesman with the Douglas Forest Protective Association, said the Horse Prairie Fire is not threatening any homes in the area. It’s burning on private industrial forest land and BLM forest lands in a mixture of slash, reprod trees and second-growth stands. The cause of the fire is unknown.
DFPA, Coos Forest Protective Association, the Oregon Department of Forestry and private industrial landowners and operators were providing equipment and fighting the fire. The cause is under investigation. Three helicopters were working on the fire as well.
An incident management team from the Oregon Department of Forestry is being brought in to manage the fire.
Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford, said smoke from that fire was contributing to the haze in central Douglas County. Some of the smoke coming into the valley was from the Falcon Fire Complex in the Tiller Ranger District, some from the Umpqua North Complex east of Glide and some traveled all the way from the Miller Complex in Jackson County on winds moving north, Schaaf said.
The biggest fire in the state right now is the Chetco Complex near Brookings at 105,518 acres.
The National Weather Service predicts a hot, smoky Sunday, with patchy smoke throughout the day and a high near 100 degrees.
The Umpqua North Fire Complex was at 14,817 acres as of Saturday morning, and 7 percent contained. It’s being battled by 1,039 firefighters with three helicopters, 72 engines, 13 dozers and 18 water tenders. The two biggest fires are Happy Dog, at 8,068 acres, and Fall Creek at 3,184 acres. The next biggest, the Ragged Ridge, is at 1,738 acres.
In preparation for expected high temperatures over the weekend, firefighters went on the offensive Friday. Tactical firing operations were used to deepen containment lines on the Fall Creek and Ragged Ridge fires Friday. Firefighters hope the technique will help them protect a power line corridor along Forest Road 28, as well as homes at Soda Springs and Slide Creek. They’re also trying to keep the Fish Creek Power Plant and the Toketee Ranger Station.
About 200 firefighters were moved to the east side of the complex Friday.
The Falcon Complex is at 3,400 acres and 35 percent contained.
New closures were announced in the Umpqua National Forest Saturday. The entire Boulder Creek Wilderness is now closed to entry. The Sandshed and Millsite area along Highway 138 near milepost 72 is closed to campers because it’s serving as a firefighters’ camp. The North Umpqua River is closed from Soda Springs Dam to the falls at Steamboat Inn and from Jeanne Fishing hole at Steamboat Inn to Susan Creek Campground. No motor vehicles have access to the Umpqua Hot Springs, but visitors can still walk there.