A number of fires burning in the southern part of the state have begun rushing toward each other and combining into larger fires, officials said Friday.
Winds pushed the Miles Fire, part of the 21,000-acre South Umpqua Complex Fire, into the Sugar Pine Fire Thursday. The fires combined in the Hawk Creek Drainage area.
After they merged, Gov. Kate Brown declared the Sugar Fine Fire a conflagration, clearing the way for the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to assist local resources battling the fire. In response, the Office of State Marshal’s Red Incident Management Team sent resources from Coos, Washington, Clackamas and both Lincoln and Polk counties, as well as a local Rogue Valley task force.
Smoke cleared from the area in the afternoon, allowing for lower humidity and increased fire activity. Soon, the Miles Fire surged toward Elk Creek Road, shooting embers and starting spot fires across the street. Helicopters and firefighters moved in quickly to extinguish the new blaze, but the flames quickly burned through 200 acres. An hour after the fire jumped, a house on Elk Creek Road was lost.
The aggressive merge forced the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to expand its evacuation notice. A level 3 evacuation notice was issued for residents living on Elk Creek Road from the 8800 block and above; 829 Ulrich Road and above; the 4000 block of Lewis Road; and all addresses on Sugar Pine Road, Dodes Creek Road and Shelly Lane.
A level 3 evacuation means residents should not delay leaving to gather any belongings or make further efforts to protect their property.
Level 2 evacuation notices were also issued in parts of Jackson County.
Crews will move into the area to check whether the original fire line had been compromised. If the line was jumped, firefighters will fall back to a more defensible secondary line along the west branch of Elk Creek.