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Governor OKs state aid for S. Oregon wildfire

GRANTS PASS — Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has authorized the state fire marshal to send structural firefighters and equipment to help local fire crews battle a new wildfire that is threatening more than 130 homes in southern Oregon’s Jackson County.

The Rogue River Drive Fire between Eagle Point and Shady Cove started Monday and has grown to about 300 acres, the governor’s office said Tuesday night.

A storm system that moved through the area Tuesday afternoon helped the fire gain momentum and cross containment lines, a Jackson County sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

Both mandatory evacuation notices and less serious advisories have been issued for residents on several roads in the area.

Elsewhere in Oregon, the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center says 7,000 lightning strikes blanketed central Oregon on Tuesday. Fire crews responded to 14 new fires but all are tiny.

Two new, large grass fires are also burning in eastern Oregon’s Gilliam County.

Spokeswoman Carol Connolly at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland said the Northwest remains the nation’s top wildfire priority, but some crews and equipment fighting Oregon’s 11 existing large fires were being sent to new blazes. The large fires burned across 220 square miles of timber, brush and grass, stretching from the California border, north through the Cascades, and east through the Columbia Gorge and central Oregon to the Idaho border.

Oregon’s biggest fire, Oregon Gulch, was 82 percent contained after burning six homes and 55 square miles of timber, brush and grass in the Siskiyou Mountains straddling the California border. All evacuation alerts on that fire have been lifted, and west winds were blowing its smoke out of the Rogue Valley.

In the Columbia Gorge just west of The Dalles, the Rowena Fire was 90 percent contained after burning one home and nearly 6 square miles of scrub oak and brush.

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