A southwestern Oregon wildfire burning since mid-August spread rapidly from Friday to Saturday thanks to strong winds, more then tripling its total burned acreage in one day and prompting evacuation orders, fire officials said.
The Rum Creek Fire, about a 50-mile drive northwest of Medford, has burned 4,319 acres as of Saturday morning, according to InciWeb, a clearinghouse for US fire information.
Evacuation orders were issued Friday and Saturday for a rural area in Oregon’s Josephine County, including the small communities of Rand and Galice, county officials said.
“It’s unsafe to stay and threatens the safety of you, your family and emergency responders. Your life could be in great danger,” the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office said Friday of people in the evacuation zone.
“Emergency services personnel may not be available to help you if you choose to stay.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a tweet Saturday that she is invoking the Emergency Conflagration Act to make additional state resources available “to slow the fire’s progress.”
Strong valley winds and high temperatures helped spread the fire Friday afternoon, fire officials said. Sparks flew out of an established perimeter to both sides of a river, “which created spot fires that began making fast uphill runs,” according to an InciWeb news release Saturday.
“The increased intensity of the fire formed a pyrocumulus smoke column, which then collapsed, pushing the fire to the south and east,” the release reads.
The fire’s intensity dropped overnight with cooler temperatures and higher humidity, helping firefighters “to conduct a variety of tactical suppression operations” to protect Rand and Galice, according to the release.
The fire was started by lightning on August 17, fire officials said.
The blaze has led to at least one death: Logan Taylor, a 25-year-old wildland firefighter, died last week after being struck by a tree while battling the fire, officials said.
The fire hadn’t destroyed any homes as of Saturday morning, according to a wildfire information site run by the state’s emergency management department. It is one of more than 30 active wildfires in the state.