ashland.news
July 18, 2024

‘Significant danger’: Level 2 evacuations ordered for Upper Applegate Fire

Crews gather near the Upper Applegate Fire outside Ruch. ODF photo
June 22, 2024

Applegate fire area spreads to about 500 acres; Highway 62 fire near Shady Cove fully contained

Rogue Valley Times staff report

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office increased evacuation warnings for areas near the Upper Applegate Fire to Level 2 as the 500-acre blaze spread Saturday afternoon, warning residents to “be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”

Sheriff’s deputies and Search & Rescue are in the area to provide in-person notifications, according to a sheriff’s office news release at 5:08 p.m. Saturday. For updated information on the firefighting efforts, follow ODF Southwest on Facebook.

“There is significant danger in your area — be ready to leave at a moment’s notice,” the release said. “Stay informed and be alert. Continue to check for updates through local city and county websites, social media, TV, and radio.”

There had been a Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation notice for the JAC-434 and JAC-436 portions of Jacksonville-Ruch, meaning residents should have been prepared to assess the danger and “prepare to evacuate, or to act early if there is any reason a person may need extra time to evacuate.”

The areas in yellow were under a stage 2 (“set”) of the three-stage ready-set-go evacuation alert system as of Saturday afternoon. The area in red is the fire zone, about 19 miles west of Ashland. For reference, Jacksonville is at top, just right of center. Map by Rogue Valley Emergency Management

The Saturday evening news release was more direct, advising people to be ready to flee as the fire spreads. It described the affected zones under the new Level 2 notice as:

• Zone JAC-436: Little Applegate Road, west of Upper Applegate Road, and eastern portions of Sterling Creek Road, rural Jacksonville.

• Zone JAC-434: Eastside Road, south of Little Applegate Road to north of McKee Bridge, rural Jacksonville.

“This may be the only notice you receive. Don’t wait to evacuate if you feel unsafe. Conditions can change rapidly. You do not need to wait for another evacuation notice. Make the best decision for your safety,” the release said. “Do not call 911 unless experiencing an immediate life safety issue.”

The Upper Applegate Fire, which broke out in the 3900 block of Upper Applegate Road south of Ruch on Thursday, was listed at 500 acres Saturday morning. Crews have indirect line around 70% of the fire and direct line around 20%, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District. No new official acreage estimates were available Saturday evening. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Highway 62 Fire, burning near Shady Cove since Thursday, is fully lined at 75 acres and is 40% mopped up, the release said. Two 20-person crews, three engines and one water tender are on scene, according to ODF.

An illegal drone was spotted over the Upper Applegate Fire Friday night, shutting down aircraft operations for the last hour of the day, a Saturday morning release said.

More than 200 personnel are assigned to the Upper Applegate Fire, including 27 overhead, seven 20-person crews, three engines, two water tenders, three bulldozers, six tree-fallers and a Rapid Extraction Mobile Support Team (REMS), ODF said.

“The terrain on this fire has posed numerous safety issues, from the steep slope to hazardous trees and rocks that have been falling. While tactics remain aggressive to corral this fire fully, the safety of those working the incident is also a top priority,” the Sarturday morning release said.

Weather was expected to be factor Saturday, ODF said earlier in the day.

“Temperatures are predicted to be in the high 80s to low 90s with a slight wind in the afternoon,” the release said. “Firefighters will be watching this potential and planning accordingly. Today, a Type 1, Type 3 helicopter and two Type 2 helicopters are assigned exclusively to this incident, and air tankers will be ordered as needed, much like yesterday.”

A National Weather Service simulation for 6 p.m. Sunday, June 22, shows a fan of smoke heading southeast from the Upper Applegate Fire area.
Smoke to spread Sunday

Northwest winds are expected to carry smoke from the Upper Applegate Fire in southern Jackson and north-central Siskiyou counties on Sunday, especially in the afternoon and into the evening, the Medford office of the National Weather Service announced Saturday evening.

The heaviest smoke is expected to stay west of Interstate 5. Those sensitive to smoke should avoid going outdoors, the announcement said. Current air quality can be checked at airnow.gov (and in the right column on the Ashland.news home page).

This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

June 22: Information added about possible smoke impact Sunday.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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