Firefighters were able to increase containment on the South Umpqua Complex Fire, a group of fires southeast of Roseburg, to 16 percent as the blazes continue to grow, reaching a combined 14,916 acres.
Sustained high temperatures and gusty afternoon winds are expected to contribute to increased fire behavior, while overnight humidity levels of more than 50 percent are expected to work in the firefighters’ favor.
Tiller’s Tuesday temperatures are expected to reach a high of 93 degrees with 43 percent humidity. Temperatures are expected to stay in the high 80s and low 90s throughout the week until Thursday when temperatures are predicted to drop into the low 80s, with a more than 50 percent humidity level expected Friday.
Wayne Patterson, a public information officer for the complex, said the weekend started out with the Snowshoe Fire as the highest priority.
As crews were able to get a line around the fire, the level 2 evacuations on residences nearby were lifted.
“They’re really feeling good about where that fire is,” Patterson said.
One 20-person crew is expected to stay on scene Tuesday, while other crews have been reassigned to other fires as needed.
“As Snowshoe was kind of winding down we were able to move crews off of that and move people into the area of (the Miles Fire) that’s moving down to the southeast toward Elk Creek,” Patterson said.
On Sunday afternoon, the Miles Fire moved to the southeast, four miles from Elk Creek, preventing firefighters from creating the fire line they were going to use to stop the southern growth of the Sugar Pine Fire.
“We weren’t able to get it burned out prior to the fire making a run at it,” Patterson said of the fire line.
The Sugar Pine Fire is burning east of the Miles Fire on the border between Douglas and Jackson County.
Firefighters started a burn out along the northern side of the Miles Fire, lighting a fire inside the control line to help with containment lines. The Miles Fire actively burned from 4 p.m. Sunday into Monday morning.
Patterson said there was a “distinct possibility” that the Sugar Pine Fire and Miles Fire could end up joining into one large fire
He said a fire analyst said the two fires could end up joining to the north, as the 3,754-acre Miles Fire moves east and the 5,257-acre Sugar Pine Fire moves west.
“It’s just terrible country to try and fight fire in,” Patterson said. “There’s just lots of heavy downed wood.”
Over the weekend, the Columbus Fire made a run to the northeast and caused a plume of ash to go over a road.
Firefighters continued to mop up the western edge of the Columbus Fire, while also performing burn outs along the north and south sides of the blaze.
Embers from both fires started spot fires, which Patterson said could end up growing into something larger.
“There are several spots along the Columbus Fire,” he said. “They’re trying to get small spots cleaned up and make sure that they don’t grow together.”
He said incident command has been beefing up the night crews to try and secure lines at night with burn outs.
“Much of the successful holding of that line along the south side of Columbus is from previous burn outs we have done the last few days,” Patterson said.
The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Douglas Forest Protective Association and Oregon Department of Forestry are sharing resources to more effectively battle the blazes.
A level 2 evacuation notice remains in effect for the Elk Creek area and Flat Creek west of the Miles Fire as well as for residents near the Sugar Pine Fire.
Patterson said the fire information center has been getting a lot of calls about the smoke.
He said wind shifts can make it seem like a new fire is breaking out, but added, “We’re able to help them understand whether there are new fires to be worried about.”
A community meeting is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Tiller Rural Fire Protection District station.