CANYONVILLE, Ore –
UPDATE: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
The Milepost 97 Fire has grown to an estimated 750 acres and is burning in steep, rocky terrain with limited access, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.
DFPA said, while the fire is highly visible from Canyonville, Riddle, and Azalea areas, the fire does not pose a direct threat to those communities at this time. Right now the only evacuation notice issued is for residents living in the 100-300 block of Ritchie road outside of Canyonville. DFPA said three homes are affected by this notice.
The agency said approximately 100 Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters are engaged and actively working on the fire. Motorists passing through the area are reminded to drive with caution
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a Level 3 or “Go” evacuation Thursday evening for three homes along the 100-300 block of Ritchie road outside of Canyonville.
Air quality continued to deteriorate throughout much of the region as a result of smoke from the Milepost 97 Fire. Unhealthy levels reported by the Department of Environmental Quality from the Medford station.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a Level 2 or “set” eveactuation notice for residents living in the 100-300 block of Ritchie road outside of Canyonville, due to the Milepost 97 fire.
Level 2 or “Set” means:
• This level indicates significant danger, if you decide to stay, be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice
• This may be the only notice your receive if conditions worsen
• Supply your “go kit” with all the essentials to last 2 weeks
• Stay connected with emergency information and evacuation routes
As of 5 p.m. Thursday, five helicopters, three air tankers and about a hundred firefighters were battling the MP 97 Fire.
It started around 10 p.m. Wednesday along I-5. The fire has grown to roughly 150 acres. With the temperatures heating up throughout the day and strong winds, the fire spread quickly.
“We are just now hitting the peak of fire season,” Kyle Reed, Douglas Forest Protective Association, said.
Last night, one firefighter was taken to the hospital with a heat related injury.
“We don’t need anymore human caused fires,” Reed said.
The Douglas Forest Protective Association says its burning in an old fire scar. The burned, dead trees fueling the fire are making it more dangerous and more difficult for firefighters to control.
“We had to pull some resources off of that just due to the number of trees that were falling at nighttime,” Reed said.
Investigators believe it may have started from an illegal debris burn, but they’re still investigating. Firefighters are reminding people to review the restrictions in your area to prevent future fires.
“This is unfortunately a great example of why public use restrictions are put in place throughout the summer time,” Reed said.
With the fire right off I-5, firefighters are asking people not to stop on the side of the road. They say many are stopping for photos. They’re asking you to slow down, put your headlights on and focus on the road.
This afternoon the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office issued a level one ‘Be Ready’ evacuation for residents living in the 100 to 300 block of Ritchie Road in Canyonville.
Those residents will be notified by emergency personnel should conditions worsen.
Anna Weeks is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Originally from the Portland area, Anna is excited to explore Southern Oregon. In her free time, she can be found reading, running or watching sports.