Canby, Aurora Personnel Deployed to Deadly Rum Creek Fire

Clackamas County crews were deployed early this week to the Rum Creek Fire in southwest Oregon, the state’s largest August wildfire, which has burned across nearly 11,000 acres with no containment.

The conflagration in Josephine County doubled in size over the weekend and has claimed one life so far: 25-year-old firefighter Logan Taylor, of Talent, who was hit and killed by a falling tree while battling the blaze near Grants Pass on August 18.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act late Friday night, issuing a statewide disaster declaration and empowering the Office of the State Fire Marshal to take unified command and deploy local mutual aid task forces.

Two groups from Clackamas County are on the scene, working the perimeter of the massive blaze and hoping to get a handle on it before a heat wave and potential high winds predicted for later in the week make it even more dangerous.

Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis, who is helping to direct the Clackamas County task forces, told the Current the fire is currently threatening the town of Merlin, and thousands of homes could lie in its path if the winds shift southward.

Canby Fire sent three of its personnel to assist in the response — firefighters Connor Briggs and Leighton Imes, as well as Fire Inspector Chief Jim Walker, a former state fire marshal who is also serving as leader of one of the task forces from Clackamas County.

The trio were deployed with a water tender Monday and are focusing on structure protection between the boundaries of the Rum Creek Fire and Merlin, Davis said.

“Right now, we’re really trying to protect the town of Merlin, because the fire has been doubling in size every 24 hours,” Davis said.

Mayor Brian Hodson shared the news of the firefighters’ deployment Tuesday and asked residents to keep the team in their prayers. Aurora Fire also sent a team to aid in the Rum Creek Fire this week consisting of Assistant Chief Mike Corless, Lieutenant Nathan Smith and engineer/paramedic Tanner Burke.

In a press release, Brown said the fire sparked from lightning and has rapidly grown. The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office has issued Level 3, Level 2, and Level 1 evacuation orders for homes near the fire.

“The Rum Creek Fire grew rapidly overnight, requiring additional resources to battle the fire and support the state’s response,” said Brown. “This is a good reminder that conditions can change quickly, and that fire knows no bounds.

“It is important for all Oregonians to be prepared, follow all evacuation orders, and continue to follow local and statewide fire prevention regulations to keep our communities safe and our natural resources protected.”

The response consists of local and mutual aid, Oregon Department of Forestry and federal resources on the scene and working to slow the fire’s progress.

The fire marshal plans to bring in four additional task forces through the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System from Douglas, Linn, Clackamas, and Lincoln Counties to assist in the response.

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