Wildfire predominates during Rockin’ the Klamath

Cliff Mann

Happy Camp is grateful to FireFighters
Cliff Mann shared this sentiment Sunday!

Dillion Fire was the news in Happy Camp Friday.
Containment lines on the Dillon Fire held Saturday night despite strong winds causing a few flare ups inside the lines. So Dillon Fire was reported to be 80% contained and full containment was expected Monday. The Dillon Fire was ignited Friday alongside California Highway 96 approximately 15 miles southwest of Happy Camp. It involved many small roadside fires over a 20 mile stretch of highway that caused the closure of Highway 96 from Ti-Bar to Coon Creek so Rockin’ the Klamath concert goers coming up that stretch of road had to change their plans about coming to the concert. . They had 8 Type 1 crews, 3 Type 2 crews, 5 helicopters, 14 engines, 6 water tenders, and 1 bulldozer fighting the fire which is over 300 acres. Dry lightning was expected and crews were on standby should any new fires get started.

Sunday. Cliff Mann was standing outside the Forest Service on Highway 95 in Happy Camp holding a large sign saying “Thanks” to the Firefighters. That expressed the feelings of most of Happy Camp. Our firefighters and their support personnel do a great job keeping us safe from the possibility of dire results of wild fires in the forest. Thanks! And Thanks to Cliff for letting them know how much we appreciate them! Cliff is originally from the Salmon River area and has returned to the Klamath recently.

Next Saturday is the third Green Apple Putting Tournament under the giant Dream Catcher in Happy Camp. Tee Time is exactly 9:03 at the Giant Dram Catcher at the end of Davis Road. You bring your own natural branch putter, this naturally occurring putter is required. Entrance fee is a quarter at the registration desk. Dennis Day has announced that the winner will receive keys to a Buick.

For further information on the Rockin the Klamath go to the Community Page, please.

Tragedy in Happy Camp

By Judy Bushy

People of Happy Camp and the surrounding area faced several fatalities in the past few days. A Forest Service contracted helicopter making a delivery to fire lines crashed. The victim of the helicopter crash has been identified as Dennis Luster Davis, 61, of Boise ID. Davis was a pilot for Idaho Helicopters and flew a Bell 205, type 2 helicopter, tail number 205BR.

Now, two food service workers who were employed at fire camp have also drowned in the Klamath River. They went swimming at Clear Creek.

Clear Creek is a popular swimming hole, but local families swim upstream in the creek, as you may see depicted on the mural on the side of Parry’s Market on Davis Road. The Karuk people have an ancient legend that a giant black snake who lives in a cave down at Ishi Pishi falls comes and will pull under a swimmer in the Klamath River. Perhaps that account explains the current that can sweep away an unsuspecting swimmer in the stream of the Klamath River. The worst thing a person can do is exhaust himself in fighting the current, Perhaps we take too lightly the danger of water sports.

A second swimmer’s body has now been located – Richard Pearson, Jr. 31; the body of George Barbis, 35, was recovered from the Klamath River earlier. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the families.

Closer to home, a Happy Camp resident, Harriet Merkler, was fatally injured in a roll-over accident on Highway 96 a few miles east of Happy Camp. Her husband, George, 81, was flown to medical care, but survived. Two minors in the car were not seriously injured.

To all the friends and family we wish to express our sympathy and condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this sorrow.

Update:

At dawn, July 28, 2007, community members and fellow firefighters gathered at the Happy Camp River Park to remember and honor nine firefighters and camp employees who lost their lives over the past twenty years on the Happy Camp Ranger District. Approximately 1,100 of participants honored the fallen during an early morning sunrise ceremony.. July 28th is significant as it is the fifth anniversary of three Lassen National Forest Firefighters who lost their lives on the Stanza Fire in 2002.

The remembrance included presentations from the Forest Service Honor Guard, including a CALFIRE bag piper, and a Karuk prayer. Comments were presented by Klamath National Forest Supervisor Peg Boland and Happy Camp District Ranger Alan Vandiver, as well as friends and co-workers of those who have passed. Pastor Bill Estes from the Happy Camp Assembly of God offered an invocation, followed by inspirational thoughts from Elk Complex Incident Commander Mike Dietrich. The Honor Guard performed a ceremonial ‘Last Alarm’, five bell rings sounded three times, as has been the tradition for over 100 years. A Forest Service bagpiper concluded the remembrance with a rendition of Amazing Grace.

Fire camp employees George Barbis and Richard Pearson, Jr., under contract to the Forest Service, were lost in an off-duty drowning accident in the Klamath River. George and Richard had also been workers with Teen Challenge.

In August of 2006, Pilots Andrei Pantchenko and Terry ‘Jake’ Jacobs perished following the crash of their helicopter into the Klamath River. During the 2002 Stanza Fire, Firefighters Heather DePaolo, John Self and Steven Oustad died after their fire engine left the roadway and traveled 1,200 feet downhill in a tragic accident. During the 1987 Slater Fire, San Bernardino National Forest Firefighter Bruce Visser was killed after being struck by a motorcycle while performing structure protection duties.

A significant number of firefighters remained on the fireline during the remembrance to ensure that Elk Complex fires did not escape their current containment efforts

Klamath National Forest Announces Emergency Closure of Several River Access Sites

Yreka, CA- Based on concern for the safety of the public and firefighters, the Klamath National Forest has closed seven river access sites. The closures are associated with the Elk Complex, and begin in Happy Camp and continue for several miles downstream. The closures are in place because helicopters, with their buckets suspended below them, are accessing the river for water. The closures will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.

Currently prohibited are:

a. Launching a watercraft from Indian Creek and Curly Jack Day Use river access sites.

b. Launching or removing a watercraft from: Chamber’s Flat, Wingate Bar, Ferry Point, Independence and Coon Creek river access sites.

For more information about fire-related closures on the Klamath National Forest visit our website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/klamath/conditions or call 530.841.4451.

For more information about the fires, visit http://www.inciweb.org/ or call 530.841.4451. Maps, and copies of the closure orders, are available at Klamath National Forest offices.

Monday Evening’s Meeting Emphasized That Fire Danger Still Exists

By Linda Martin

The danger to residents of the Live Oak Drive/Buckhorn Road neighborhood may have been thwarted thanks to intense control efforts on the part of fire fighters during the past few days. At a community meeting on Monday evening, Incident Commander Kent Swartzlander displayed maps on which he’d drawn fire lines for the Little Grider Fire. He explained that at this time fire fighters are tending flames burning through Perkins Gulch toward Buckhorn Road. They were expected to be completely controlled and extinguished by the time the fire line arrives at the edge of town.

Swartzlander said that though lines formerly considered trigger points have been crossed, and evacuations haven’t been called for, the reason why is that the fire is burning at a very low intensity at this point. It is more of a controlled burn and he no longer expects anyone in the area of Buckhorn Road to be evacuated.

Letters of appreciation were read and handed out. Dwayne Armbruster got one as representative of the Fire Safe Council’s fuels removal crew. Other letters went to John Evans for the assistance of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department, to Ray Koons for doing a telephone tree to inform people about meetings, and to Harold Tripp and the Karuk Tribe for help they’ve given to the fire fighting effort.

Meanwhile the Wingate Fire spread east toward Happy Camp on the south side of the river on Sunday night due to 30mph winds. Most of the smoke in Happy Camp is due to this fire, about four miles downriver. Residents on Curly Jack Road have been contacted as fire crews located all dwellings. Fire fighters said there would be more traffic on Curly Jack Road as they try to stop the fire at Titus Ridge.

Other speakers at this meeting were Kirk Eadie, local assistant fire chief, and Alan Vandiver, Happy Camp District Ranger.

Sergeant John Evans of the Sheriff’s Department updated us on evacuations. He said that if evacuations take place, people without places to go to will now be asked to stay at the Seiad Elementary School rather than the Marble Mountain Ranch. The reason for the change is that now Highway 96 to Yreka is reopened, and the Office of Public Health decided this would be the best location.

Seiad Valley is only eighteen miles from Happy Camp. Evacuees with medical needs can be taken from there to Yreka. There are kennels in Seiad Valley for dogs and cats, but not larger animals. The Karuk Tribe has offered room at its ranch on China Grade Road for horses and other large animals that need to be moved. Space there is limited to 40 head of livestock.

As of Tuesday there’s a new Incident Commander for the Elk Complex Fires, which include the Little Grider Fire. Mike Dietrich, Fire Chief for San Bernadino National Forest, is leading Incident Management Team 5, and will supervise the Elk Complex Fires for the next few days. He congratulated Kent Swartzlander and fire fighters on his team for the “Herculean effort they put into this”. He warned, however, that the rains would not stop the fires and that they will be very difficult to put out because of the terrain here in the Klamath River Valley. He said “this is still a very serious situation” and that once the rain passes, it is expected to heat up again. He emphasized that his number one priority is fire fighter and public safety.

An audience member asked about the six injuries mentioned on the inciweb.com website. Valery Lambeth said these injuries are all minor. They include heat stress, a sprained ankle and a knee injury.

Before leaving the meeting, Kirk Eadie suggested the next meeting date be set. It was agreed that we will meet again on Friday July 20 at 7pm at the Happy Camp Grange Hall. Everyone is invited to attend for another fire update.

Heavy Rainfall May Slow Fires

Tuesday night: What threatened to be a mere drizzle all day long turned into a heavy rainstorm this evening. Happy Campers are relieved to have nearby fires get wet. This precipitation is no doubt going to slow the progress of the Elk Complex Fires, but is not expected to put them out entirely.

Update, Wednesday morning: All those people who left comments here saying they were praying for us … this may be the answer to your prayers! Thanks so much to all who commented on the fire articles and sent us your thoughtful words and best wishes.

When we woke up this morning the ground was soaked. Definitely a good sign.

The Redding Record Searchlight has published an article about the fire, with photos: Flames threaten: Elk Complex 15 percent contained as it nears Happy Camp

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