Saturday, February 27, 2021
Feb. 27, 2021

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Helicopter, ground crews stop Central Point fire


Firefighters on the ground worked in concert with a helicopter to stop a fire that burned within 50 yards of rural homes outside Central Point Sunday afternoon.

The two-acre fire burned amid dry grass and oak trees off Tolo Road northwest of Central Point. Temperatures were in the mid-90s with light winds.

An Oregon Department of Forestry helicopter that flew from Merlin outside Grants Pass was able to dip buckets of water from the nearby McCormick Reservoir pond and repeatedly douse the fast-moving fire.

ODF and Jackson County Fire District 3 engines, grass rigs, ground crews and a dozer battled the blaze on the ground after firefighters were called to the scene at about 12:45 p.m.

“The guys on the ground were keeping the perimeter under control,” ODF Protection Supervisor Taylor Wilkerson said. “We brought the helicopter out here to make sure the fire stayed within that perimeter. There was a pond across the road. Some situations are better than others. We appreciate finding them and using them.”

Firefighters expected to finish mop-up operations Sunday and then monitor the site over the next three days, he said Sunday afternoon.

Jackson County Fire District 3 Battalion Chief Myron Harvey said firefighters were initially called out on a smoke investigation, but he upgraded the incident to a grass fire after seeing a column of smoke rising into the air.

The smoke column was visible from throughout the Central Point and Medford area, including from Interstate 5.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies temporarily blocked off a section of Tolo Road Sunday afternoon except to residents.

With conditions becoming hotter and dryer as fire season progresses, Harvey said, helicopters will be called out more often to aid initial attack operations.

Wilkerson urged the public to be cautious about the threat of fire and to create defensible space by clearing flammable vegetation from around their homes.