Rural Josephine Co. businesses feel impact of Rum Creek Fire

JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore. —As the Rum Creek fire continues to burn, businesses nearby are being affected. The fire is currently burning more than 10,000 acres, in Josephine County. And only 1% contained.

The Rum Creek fire continues to rage in southern Oregon. The BLM is now announcing closures of the Wild and Scenic Lower Rogue River in Josephine County.

But many businesses like Merlin’s Orange Torpedo Trips rely heavily on tourists and others to recreate to keep their business afloat.

“It’s a bucket list item for people there’s a permit system that people apply for this and travel across the country to come to do this,” said Operations Manager, Kory Mahr.

Mahr says rafting season is its number one source of revenue. The season typically runs till mid-September, now the river is approaching day 4 of closure as the fire burns nearby. Mahr’s team has had to get creative, like rerouting trips to different sections of the Rogue River just north of Grants Pass, between Grants Pass and Merlin.

“A lot of people canceling certainly people pushing for the next year, hoping that their plans can be continued next year, each day hurts, not only do we have guides not working, drivers not working lodge owners and staff kinda hanging in limbo,” said Mahr.

The Galice Resort is also feeling the burden on its business.

“Our family has been here 43 years at Galice and we’ve seen a lot of fire and high water and a little bit of everything but this is the worst fire by far that has gotten this close to the Galice community,” said owner, Debbie Thomason.

Thomason says she’s still recovering from last year’s fire, which took her business. Her team set up a trading post, live music, and food trucks until they get approval to do their rebuild. Now it’s under level 3 evacuation.

“We just pray that this fire gets out sooner than later and people can get back on the river and enjoy the beautiful drive of the Galice area during the summertime,” said Thomason.

The situation continues to change daily, but the two are hopeful. At the same time, it’s a waiting game for the businesses.

To stay up to date on the latest Rum Creek Fire updates, visit the Rum Creek Fire Facebook page.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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