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July 5, 2013
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Fire strikes again on Bland Mountain; crews gain upper hand overnight

DAYS CREEK — Firefighters expected to complete trails this afternoon around a 125-acre fire burning on Bland Mountain, the scene of two of the most destructive fires ever in Douglas County.

About 90 firefighters remained this morning on the fire, burning seven miles east of Canyonville.

The fire broke out at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday along the Tiller Trail Highway in the 1300 block, between Days Creek and Milo.

The fire was apparently human caused. Douglas Forest Protective Association spokesman Kyle Reed said the source was under investigation.

Fire officials named the blaze Bland Mountain Fire, the same name given to fires in 1987 and 2004 that burned thousands of acres.

Several fire agencies attacked the fire on the ground and from the air as flames spread through unusually dry vegetation. Reed said DFPA firefighters got a taste of conditions earlier in the day when a grass fire burned 1 1/2 acres along Interstate 5 at Milepost 133 near Sutherlin.

“When you have a one and a half acre fire at eight in the morning, that’s a bad sign,” he said.

No buildings were threatened by the Bland Mountain Fire, but area residents reported seeing flames climb uphill through grass, brush and blackberry bushes before reaching trees.

“There was a lot of smoke,” said Days Creek resident Jean Smith, who lives in the 1200 block of Tiller Trail Highway. “It was over a ridge, but it was close enough to be scary.”

The fire burned mostly in steep and rocky terrain owned privately and by the Bureau of Land Management, Reed said.

The initial attack included two helicopters, one observation aircraft, eight engines, two hand crews and two bulldozers. The Days Creek, Milo, Canyonville, Riddle and Tri City fire departments assisted.

“We hit it real hard, real fast,” Reed said.

By 8 p.m., trails were built around 70 percent of the fire. By this morning, trails were around 90 percent of the fire, which was 50 percent contained. The flames started dying down around 2 a.m. as the weather cooled, Reed said. “Crews made real good progress on it overnight.”

The fire was originally estimated at 75 acres, but the figure was revised upward this morning. Fire officials hoped to make a more accurate measurement of the fire today.

Four hand crews, two engines, a water tender and bulldozer were on the fire this morning. Firefighters expected to spend several more days mopping up.

In 1987, the first Bland Mountain Fire burned 10,300 acres, destroyed 14 homes and claimed the lives of two loggers. In 2004, the second Bland Mountain Fire burned 4,705 acres and destroyed two homes.

• City Editor Don Jenkins can be reached at 541-957-4201 or djenkins@nrtoday.com.


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The News-Review Updated Jul 5, 2013 12:37PM Published Jul 5, 2013 07:08PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.