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.