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Fire Siege of 1987 Remembered

August 28, 2007

Happy Camp “87 fire by Jim Waddell Happy Camp “87 Fire by Kerry Waddell

20th Anniversary of Fire Siege ’87

The above photos of Happy Camp during the ’87 fires are by Jim Waddell and Kerry Waddell respectively. Thank you for sharing the photos with Happy Camp News readers!

Just two days before Labor Day, 1987, after a summer of rainless heat had baked the woods to kindling, over 11,000 lightning strikes hit and the western states began to burn. During the following 8 weeks the worst fires in nearly 100 years devastated 9 states, including 1,300 square miles in California and Oregon. The wildfire devastation included 406 square miles of the Klamath National Forest and became known as “Fire Siege ’87″.

During the first week of the fires 1,274 people were involved with fighting 20,675 acres of wildfires on the Klamath National Forest. By the eighth week 75 wildfires had burned a total of 258,764 acres, or 15%, of the 1.7 million land base of the Klamath National Forest.

The lives of three firefighters were claimed by “Fire Siege ’87″ on the Klamath National Forest. Heavy smoke trapped by temperature inversions plagued firefighters and rural residents for weeks on end. Firefighters from across the country, including U.S. military, federal,  state and county agencies, as well local residents joined forces to combat the fires. At the peak some 8,003 people battled the wildfires.

The parallels between “Fire Siege ’87″ and the recent China-Back and Elk Complexes are impressive,  stated Forest Supervisor Peg Boland. “It takes all of us working together to manage a major fire suppression incident. The help we recently experienced is an excellent example of working together to successfully achieve a common goal that benefited the communities as well as National Forest natural resources.”




Elk Complex Fire Update

August 2, 2007

Forest Service Update

Total Complex Acreage: 16,449 acres
Incident Resources: 805 personnel
Total Complex Containment: 80%
Cost to Date: $17,400,000
Injuries to Date (minor): 15
Fatalities to Date: 1
Expected Full Containment: 8/05/2007

Siskiyou County Public Health Officer, Stephan Perlman, M.D., again wants to advise residents throughout Siskiyou County to be aware that air quality may be extremely poor in some areas due to severe smoke today. Residents in areas with poor air quality are advised to remain indoors and refrain from physical exertion. In areas with visibility less than 2 miles, drivers are cautioned to drive carefully and to turn their headlights on as they drive through the area. Firefighters plan to continue to use aerial ignition to burn portions of the interior of the fire on the King Creek 2/Wingate/Titus Fires. This involves releasing ping pong ball size incendiaries (PSD’s) as the helicopter flies over the area to be burned. As the fire slowly backs down towards the Klamath River the percentage of containment will rise. Crews are continuing to secure established firelines. Patrol and mop up continue on the Little Grider Fire.

Of the thirty identified fires in the Elk Complex, 25 are 100% contained. The contained fires will continue to be monitored, patrolled and staffed as necessary. The remaining five fires are as follows:

* Wingate/Titus/King Creek 2 acres is 13,381 acres (increase in acreage due to limited burning of interior) and 76% contained. Firelines have been constructed and limited burning of interior areas will continue. A closure for campers and miners, from Five Mile Bridge to Norcross Campground on Elk Creek Road remains in place.

* Elk Fire (1,144 acres) 96% contained and remains in aerial patrol.

* Hummingbird Fire (80 acres) 0% contained. The fire remains in aerial patrol.

The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control District, has installed an air quality monitoring station in Happy Camp. Real-time data may be viewed online at SatGuard.




Monday Accident on Elk Fire Complex

July 23, 2007

By Judy Bushy

The news on the Elk Fire Complex had particularly encouraged those involved because of only minor injuries. An amazing feat, since the fires are in steep isolated terrain that in some cases is very treacherous. Fire fighters are working in one of the most dangerous of professions. Today, however, the news has come that this morning shortly after ten oclock, a type 2 helicopter went down in the Norcross Area. Officials have confirmed that there was a fatality.

When the threat of wildfire comes against a community, we cheer and thank the firefighters who come in to save our town, our homes, and perhaps the lives of many in the face of wildfire. Sometimes in the fighting of the fire, some even loose their lives. Our heroes are not invincible. Perhaps that is why they are our heroes, knowing the risks, they gave their all in trying to protect people in a remote community.

Our thoughts and prayers go out for the family and friends of the helicopter crew. If we could, we would give them a collective hug from the whole community. We had hoped that such a sad tragedy would not occur here. It has been a somber day in Happy Camp.




Memorial Service Honors Three Firefighters

July 30, 2002

Several hundred firefighters and family members of the firefighters killed in Sunday morning’s Stanza Fire accident gathered at the local elementary school’s ballpark for a memorial service at sunset. The service was done according to forest service tradition with candles replaced by glowsticks held aloft in honor of Heather DePaolo, John Self and Steven Oustad.

Heather’s brother and best-friend, Jeremey DePaolo, attended and shared words about her love for the Forest Service. He said she had two bachelors degrees and could have done anything, but chose to work on fire management and loved her Forest Service family. Also attending were her fiancé, a native Karuk, and his mother. Other family members were unable to attend, but were remembered in word, thought and prayer.

Gary Lake spoke on behalf of the Karuk Tribe, honoring the firefighters who died while trying to protect Karuk ancestral lands. He offered Karuk tribal flags as tribute to the families of the firefighters.

The Twenty Third Psalm was read, followed by the traditional lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. The American flag was raised, then lowed to half-mast. Holding glowsticks aloft, there was a moment of silence followed by the procession of the bereaved to place their glowsticks at the foot of the flagpole.




Tragic Accident at the Stanza Fire

July 29, 2002

Stanza Fire Map

Our condolences to family and friends of the three firefighters killed while working on the Stanza Fire Sunday morning. The fire, ten miles south of Happy Camp, has been burning out of control for nearly a week in an area near Sulphur Springs. It has grown to over 1300 acres due to the difficulty of fighting it in steep, rough terrain.

The accident occurred at about 1:30 Sunday morning when a Forest Service water tender rolled off the road and down a steep 800′ embankment. There were two survivors, both from Northern California.

Those killed were John Self, 19, of Susanville; Heather DePaolo, 29, of Redding, and Steven Oustad, 51, of Westwood.









Klamath River Resort Inn
Klamath River Resort Inn






Indian Creek

Indian Creek, downstream from the Eddy.


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Happy Camp River Access Buck

A buck at the Happy Camp River Access.


Elk Creek Bridge

The Elk Creek Bridge.


Klamath River

Downriver, about four miles.