Smith Fire

A fire crew monitors a burnout operation in steep terrain along the edge of the Smith Fire, the largest of the Devil’s Knob Complex of fires. The Smith Fire had burned 30,818 acres as of Tuesday morning, while the entire complex of 43 lightning-caused wildfires on the Tiller Ranger District had burned 50,920 acres.

Slowly but surely, fire crews are gaining the upper hand on a collection of lightning-caused wildfires burning on the North Umpqua and Tiller ranger districts of the Umpqua National Forest.

East of Glide, the Jack Fire, which was first reported July 5 near Steamboat Creek, has slowed to a virtual crawl. The fire, currently estimated at 23,990 acres, has seen less than 200 acres of new growth over the past week, with most of that added acreage due to burnout operations designed to fortify containment lines. There could be additional growth in the coming week as burning operations are planned to combine the Jack Fire and the nearby Buckhead Fire (5,714 acres).

The Jack Fire was estimated at 55% containment as of Tuesday morning, with just five fire personnel assigned. There are 705 firefighters working on the Rough Patch Complex, which had reached a total of 41,185 acres combined and was at 35% containment.

Just south of those two fires, the Near Minky Fire has grown to 4,867 acres and appears to be caught in the middle, approaching the Jack and Buckhead fires to the north while getting crept upon by the Smith Fire, the largest fire on the Devil’s Knob Complex, a collection of 43 fires sparked on the Tiller Ranger District after storms passed through the region July 29 and Aug. 1.

A report from the Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team, which is managing the Devil’s Knob Complex, said that extremely steep terrain — including canyons — between the Smith and Near Minky fires are posing the biggest obstacle to adding containment along the northeastern flank of the Smith Fire and the southwestern edge of the Near Minky Fire.

The Smith Fire has grown to 30,818 acres and is at 24% containment, while the second-largest fire on the Devil’s Knob Complex, the Big Hamlin Fire, had reached 18,607 acres and 56% containment. Many of the smaller fires on the complex are in patrol status.

Heavy smoke is expected to linger in the Umpqua Basin until late Tuesday or early Wednesday, when a cold front begins to push onshore, bringing higher winds and cooler temperatures. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the air quality index in Roseburg as of 9:45 a.m. was considered moderate at 81.

Donovan Brink can be reached at dbrink@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4219.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Donovan Brink is the cops and courts reporter for The News-Review.

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