WILLIAMS, Ore.– A new wildfire, the Panther Gulch Fire, located in the Applegate Valley continues to burn Wednesday night after sparking near Williams Tuesday evening.
When residents first spotted the smoke column, many were concerned about the fire becoming as big as the Milepost 97 Fire but the Oregon Department of Forestry is feeling confident that the fire is coming under control.
As of Wednesday afternoon, ODF says the fire is at 70 acres with 15 percent containment. No evacuations or road closures have been issued and the investigation is still attempting to figure out how the fire started.
“Been seeing them hammering it with the choppers all day,” said Jeremy Guthrie, resident of Williams.
Guthrie, along with others in Williams, watched overnight as helicopters and tankers pounded the hillsides near the town with water and retardant. While this fire is the newest addition to southern Oregon’s 2019 wildfire season, crews were quick to get a handle on it before it spread too much.
“Last night came out and actually saw the hill on fire behind us and lots of air support and lots of fire trucks,” said Bryan Maynard who was visiting family in Williams. “They were doing their best to get it out.”
In those initial hours when the Panther Gulch Fire broke out, many like Guthrie and Maynard were wondering how it would turn out. With smoke still rolling in from the MP 97, thoughts that this fire could become the next big one were prevalent.
“The more it’s gotten up and the more they’ve been hitting it everybody has been kind of like, ‘Oh what’s it doing? Is it getting crazy?’” said Guthrie. “But no they got to be getting a good handle on it.”
According to ODF, the terrain of both fires is very similar. Remote area, steep slopes, and falling debris are just like MP97. However, unlike that fire which sparked late at night when air support has to be grounded, crews were able to hit the Panther Gulch fire with some 13,000 gallons of retardant within the first few hours.
“Our helicopters and our air tankers could fly over the Panther Gulch Fire and really just begin that firefight from the air and construct those lines with retardant,” said Natalie Weber, ODF. “Made a big difference once we got crews to the scene.”
ODF says crews working on the Panther Gulch Fire won’t stretch resources being used at the MP97 or even affect it at all since the two are completely separate. With four helicopters and four 20-person hand crews working around Williams, containment levels continue to rise and residents are feeling more at ease.
“With everything going on everybody is freaking out,” said Guthrie. “But they got a good handle on it.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.