Flat Fire continues to spread as crews brace for incoming winds

ROGUE RIVER-SISKIYOU NATIONAL FOREST, Ore. – The largest fire in Southern Oregon this summer is growing in the mountains near the coast.

The Flat Fire in Curry County continues to rapidly spread in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (RRSNF).

The fire has grown to 5,477 acres near the communities of Oak Flat and Agness.

RRSNF said it expects the fire to grow rapidly over the next few days, so Curry County officials are watching closely.

“We’ve just got to pay attention to it, but also trust and know that we’ve got good fire personnel here, they know what they’re doing, and they’re very aggressively going after this fire,” Curry County Commissioner Brad Alcorn said. “They want to shut this fire down.”

More than 330 personnel are on the fire.

Right now, they are focused on protecting about 40 structures that are threatened, and they’ve been successful so far.

“They’ve been able to prevent growth towards the structures, but the fire has grown in the opposite direction,” Commissioner Alcorn said. “We’re going to get some wind [Monday] evening, I think it was predicted 20 or 25 knot winds, so that’s some pretty good winds for a fire like this.”

RRSNF said the fire is burning on both sides of the Illinois River.

Fire officials said steep terrain, high winds, and low humidity are making it harder for crews to stop the fire from growing.

Part of the fire is also burning in the old Biscuit Fire footprint from 2002, which could help fire crews but it could also hurt them.

“The fire personnel here are familiar with the area,” Commissioner Alcorn explained. “We’ve got past experience with fire in that area, but… there’s plenty of fuel in this area.”

Curry County Sheriff John Ward said they’ve told people on Oak Flat Road and Spud Road to evacuate but can’t force anyone to leave.

He said some people are choosing to wait it out to see how the fire develops.

“Unless you have business there, I wouldn’t recommend going to the Agness area,” Sheriff Ward said. “There’s a lot of fire traffic up there, a lot of heavy smoke… It’s ground level, it gets down onto the river, and it’s hard to breathe.”

County officials expect this fire to stick around for a while but said it could benefit from the lack of wildfires in the region.

“We’ve seen this happen before,” Alcorn said. “It’s probably going to grow in size, but we don’t have a lot of fires going on in this region right now, so we’re able to get a lot of resources here, so very hopeful.”

As far as the investigation goes into the origin of the fire, Sheriff Ward said he can confirm the fire was human caused.

He said there may be witnesses that will be contacted as the investigation continues.

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Ethan McReynolds is a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC5 News. He grew up in Bothell, Washington and graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Broadcasting and minors in Journalism and Sport Management. At Gonzaga, he started his own sports podcast. Ethan loves rooting for his hometown Seattle sports teams, especially the Mariners. He loves playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. He is also an avid Taylor Swift fan.
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