CANYONVILLE — Fire crews from the Douglas Forest Protective Association and South County fire departments responded to a natural cover fire close to one mile southeast of Canyonville.

The fire has spread to approximately 80 acres as of 3:30 p.m. Earlier this afternoon, the fire was reported to be 40 acres in size, Kyle Reed, spokesman for the DFPA said. 

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office issued a level one "Be Ready" evacuation notice for residents of the 100 to 300 block of Ritchie Road. A "Be Ready" notice recommends residents to be prepared to potentially evacuate and have a "go kit" ready.

Small flames were visible from the side of Interstate 5 on Thursday morning as the smoke-filled sky clouded around smoldering trees.

Crews initially responded to the fire, dubbed the Milepost 97 Fire, around 10 p.m. on Wednesday when the blaze was approximately half an acre in size.

But by Thursday morning, the fire, which is burning land near milepost 97 on Interstate 5, had grown to approximately 15 acres, Reed said.

“We just want to make sure we get this thing taken off the board as soon as we can,” said Adam Sinkey, a DFPA incident commander.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital for a heat-related illness but was released shortly after, Sinkey said.

The fire moved into a patch of land that burned in the late 1980s from a lightning fire and has a significant amount of dead trees and heavy brush, Reed said. Crews worked on the fire overnight, but were limited in where they could safely work due to rolling rocks and falling trees, Reed said.

“There’s a lot of light, flashy fuels on top of those heavy fuels,” Reed said. “So there’s a potential for rapid and extreme fire activity in these areas.”

Despite the challenges, about 90 firefighters were able to complete fire lines around about a quarter of the fire. Additional resources were ordered, according to Reed, and five helicopters with 300-gallon water tanks were assigned to the blaze. 

These resources were available to fire crews because there are not many fires burning at this time, Reed said.

“When we’ve had fires start, we’ve struggled to get the resources we’ve needed because there’s been so many fires going on,” Reed said. “Right now, we have the luxury of there’s not a lot going on.”

The burn is highly visible from Interstate 5, Reed said, and motorists are asked to use caution when driving through the area. Officials are urging drivers to pay attention and refrain from taking pictures of the blaze or stop along the freeway.

No homes are threatened by the fire and no evacuation notices have been issued.

Reed said the preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire suggested the blaze was related to an illegal campfire.

Hannah Kanik is a general assignment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at hkanik@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4210. Or follow her on Twitter @hannah_kanik.

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