With a number of large fires burning throughout the region, national fire managers say the Pacific Northwest is now the new top priority for shared firefighting resources.
Much of the attention is being focused on the Southwestern part of Oregon. That’s where a number of large fires are burning between the Rogue River/Siskiyou and Umpqua National Forests.
Monday, about 500 residents turned out for a community meeting in Glendale. Fire officials were on hand to update the public a group of more than 50 fires burning just north of town, known as the Douglas Complex.
No structures have been lost. But more than 400 homes are at risk. People in more than 40 homes have been urged to evacuate immediately.
Carol Connolly is a fire information officer with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. She says local and state firefighters are in place to perform what’s called “structure protection.”
“When we say ‘structure protection,’ usually you have a fire truck assigned to each home or between two homes. And they basically are on standby in event they need to go into action,” Connolly says.
Smoke from the fires is creating air quality problems in some areas.
According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Grants Pass and Cave Junction currently have air quality levels considered to be “unhealthy.” People there are advised to avoid manual labor and outdoor exercise.
The fires also shut down commercial train traffic between Eugene and Medford. Connelly says one of the fires in the Douglas Complex has damaged bridges used by the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad. The fire has also caused landslides along the track.
Forecasters are predicting more lightning could hit the region Tuesday evening.