By Linda Martin
A new forest fire burning in the hills north and east of the Happy Camp airport may force evacuations of homes around the airport and in Indian Meadows by midday Sunday or Monday morning. More information will be posted as it becomes available if possible. My home is one of those that may have to be evacuated unless the fire is brought under control.
According to a local deputy, bulldozers may be used to widen a forest road behind the airport in an attempt to stop the fire from proceeding into Happy Camp through the area around the airport.
Another fire is burning in the hills south of Elk Creek on the south side of the Klamath River. This fire can be clearly seen from Highway 96, and may threaten homes along Curly Jack Road.
Update, 9:04am – The fire is heading toward Happy Camp. Fire fighters are mapping out home locations in order to provide protection should the fire get close to them. A town meeting will be held at 11am at the Happy Camp Grange Hall to discuss evacuations.
Update, 11:51am -Â I attended the meeting at the Grange. This was one of the best attended community meetings, ever. The place was packed. Valery Lambeth, Plans Section Chief, was MC. The fire above the airport is being called the Little Grider Fire. Rob Rowley, a corporal from the Sheriff’s Department in Yreka is here to help with evacuations. He will work with the Office of Emergency Services after the fire to help with any needed reimbursements.
Marcia Armstrong, our County Supervisor, attended and spoke to us of her support for this town in this time of crisis. Next up was Alan Vandiver, Happy Camp District Ranger. He told us he has over thirty years working with forest fires and gave us confidence that there’s a competent and effective fire fighting team working on controlling this fire.
Kent Swartzlander is the Incident Commander. He provided an overview of the fires currently burning around Happy Camp, including the Little Grider Fire, which is threatening our community.
Local Sheriff’s Dept. Sergeant, John Evans, was next to speak. He told us that evacuations, if needed, will take place from Doolittle Bridge on Indian Creek, all the way south through town to Chambers Flat on Highway 96. He said that if you leave your home you should put a note on the door telling where you’ve gone. That way deputies won’t waste time looking for people who are not on the premises.
Evacuees are requested to drive west from town as there are other fires near Highway 96, east of here. Sheltering for evacuated Happy Campers will take place at Marble Mountain Ranch near Somes Bar. There is limited room for livestock in that location, but it would be preferable for pet and livestock owners to find other accommodations for their animals if at all possible. It is not mandatory for evacuees to go to Marble Mountain Ranch – it is intended as shelter for people with no place else to go.
The area beyond Five Mile Bridge on Elk Creek Road is being evacuated at this time, however this is a conservative distance from fire danger, chosen because there’s a gate that’s easily closed. The residents between Five Mile Bridge and the Klamath River, including Curly Jack Road residents, are not considered at risk at this time though there are quite a few fires burning on that side of the river.
If you have any special needs, you are requested to write them out. A form we received at the meeting asks for your name, information about your special need, your address, your phone number, and your transportation requirements. This information must be taken to the Sheriff’s office in Happy Camp as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for help.
John Evans stated that they are requesting that people be ready to evacuate within ten minutes, even if woken up at 3 in the morning by a uniformed deputy knocking on your door. The time to pack and get essentials together is now.
Valery Lambeth, Plans Section Chief, MC’d the meeting.
Rob Rowley of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department is here to help coordinate evacuation efforts, if needed.
Kent Swartzlander is Incident Commander for the Little Grider Fire.
Alan Vandiver, Happy Camp District Ranger, promised to answer every question before leaving the meeting. Here he is talking to Chris Sorenson, chairman of the Happy Camp Chamber of Commerce.