The six wildlfires that burned an estimated 97 acres along Interstate 5 near Curtin in northern Douglas County was related to a vehicle malfunction from a passing motorist, according to a statement released by the Douglas Forest Protective Association on Saturday.
DFPA officials said a failed catalytic converter from a passing car was responsible for starting the six wildfires.
The fire that was reported around 6 p.m. Friday night was contained by morning and the rural fire districts were sent home once threats to structures was minimized.
Kyle Reed, spokesperson for the DFPA, estimated the six fires together were about 97 acres on Saturday, with most of that focused in the two southern-most fires which combined overnight and are estimated to be about 85 acres together. Reed said they were able to get a dozer line around the fires except 200 feet that was hand-dug.
“That’s reassuring because a dozer line is wider that a typical hand line,” Reed said.
There will still be smoke for a couple of days while the crews continue to work on the fires and mop up the smoldering vegetation.
“It’s been a little bit cooler lately, but the vegetation has been pretty dry and the chances of a fire starting is still high,” Reed said.
Shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday, TripCheck showed clear roads between exits 162 and 165 northbound.
A fixed-wing recon ship will be flying overhead periodically and two helicopters are on standby, but had not taken off by 10 a.m.
Around 6 p.m. crews responded to a report of a natural cover fire burning near milepost 163 along the northbound lanes of I-5. En route, callers reported other fires burning between milepost 162 and 165.
Crews were able to quickly knock down the four most northern fires, the largest of which burned about 4 acres. The two most southern fires, located just north of the I-5 mp 162 onramp, challenged firefighters as both fires moved quickly up the hillside.
Two helicopters were used to help cool the fires as crews and bulldozers worked their way around the fires.
An air tanker from the Medford Tanker Base was also dispatched to the fire and delivered one load of fire retardant across the top of the southern two fires, slowing the fires spread farther up the hill. These two fires eventually merged together and were estimated to be about 78 acres in size.
Structural firefighters, were accessing nearby homes Friday night to determine if structure protection was needed. Reed said no official evacuations had been issued as of Friday night, but nearby residents should be aware of their surroundings and keep up to date with changing conditions.