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Fight continues against Gopher fire in Sky Lakes Wilderness

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The Gopher fire has been burning since Sept. 5, the result of five lightning sparked fires that merged following a recent storm. It’s burning in the scar of 2008’s Middle Fork fire.

The Gopher fire, burning in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, was still at 340 acres Tuesday, the same estimated size as Monday, thanks in large part to some overnight rain.

The National Weather Service reported Tuesday morning that about one-tenth of an inch had fallen in the previous 24 hours near the fire, which is burning near the Middle Fork Rogue River 11 miles east of Prospect. Anywhere from five-hundredths to one-tenth inch fell over the Rogue Valley, meteorologist Shad Keene said.

Warmer, drier conditions are expected through Saturday. Another cool, wet system is forecast for Sunday.

The Gopher fire has been burning since Sept. 5, the result of five lightning-sparked fires that merged following a storm. It’s burning in the scar of the 2008 Middle Fork fire.

“The biggest hazards out there are all the downed snags from that previous fire,” said Debra MacLean, fire public information officer. “That’s a huge issue.” Four more sets of tree fallers have been ordered to help reduce the risk of injury from falling snags and fire-weakened trees.

The fire is considered 0% contained, but officials said crews continue to make progress on containment lines on the blaze’s southwest and western flanks. The wet weather also has given crews a chance to build a fire line on the southern flank of the fire.

“We are making good progress and we are going to get this done, but the fire is in steep and difficult terrain, in a large old snag patch,” High Cascades District Ranger Dave Palmer said in a news release.

There are 319 personnel fighting the fire, including 13 20-person hand crews, six helicopters and a dozer.

Multiple roads have been closed, including U.S. National Forest roads 3795-500, 3790, 3790-200, and 3785. Trail closures include trail no. 979, east from the Middle Fork Trailhead to its intersection with Trail No. 980, Trail No. 980, Trail No. 1084 from the Tom and Jerry trailhead east to 1084s intersection with Trail No. 1085, Trail No. 1085, and Trail No. 1089 from its intersection with Trail No. 1085 south to its intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail, according to a U.S. Forest Service closure order.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.