Milepost 97 Fire near Canyonville swells to 1,650 acres, evacuations ordered

Smoke rising over the Milepost 97 Fire captured on Thursday, July 26 (Photo courtesy of Douglas Forest Protective Association)

In what seems to be a regular occurrence in Oregon every summer now, the news is reporting yet another raging wildfire. The Milepost 97 Fire was originally reported around 10 p.m. Wednesday night burning about 750 acres of steep, rocky terrain southeast of Canyonville in less than 24 hours. Reported as of Friday morning by the Douglas Forest Protective Association has now doubled in size and swelled to around 1,650 acres. As a result of very hot temperatures, low relative humidity, and gusty winds, the fire made grew significantly larger Thursday afternoon.

Due to the severity of the fire, being a Level three ("Go now") evacuation orders were also issued by the Douglas County Sheriff's office. Three homes in the 100 to 300 block of Ritchie Road have been evacuated, which reside along the southern edge of the fire.

“We strongly urge residents to leave their homes in the affected area as fire officials have determined there is a significant public safety risk,” said Brad O’Dell, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, in a press release.

At this time over 200 firefighters are currently on the scene working to fight the fire, as well as additional hand crews expected to arrive on Friday. Due to road access being minimal in the area, this has forced firefighters to hike in and unfortunately is preventing engines and dozers from accessing the fire.

The smoke has also carried over to Ashland, Grants Pass, Medford and other Southern Oregon towns resulting in very unhealthy air. Folks who have heart and lung diseases, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. It's been advised also for anyone else to reduce their activity.

At this time, the Oregon Department of Transportation has reported that Interstate 5 remains open in both directions, although the off-ramp at Exit 95, the Canyon Creek exit, has been closed because of the fire.

Due to rapidly changing conditions such as smoke limited visibility, and firefighters in the area, travelers on Interstate 5 are asked to remain cautious.