Elk Fire Complex Update From The Forest Service

Total Complex Acreage: 8,327 acres

Incident Resources: 1,122 personnel

Total Complex Containment: 15%

Expected Full Containment: 7/29/2007

Cost to Date: $4,300,000

Injuries to Date (minor): 6

Structures Threatened: 550

The top priority is the protection of the Happy Camp, Hamburg, and Elk Creek communities. Yesterday, line construction progress was made on the larger fires of the complex (see list below).

Moisture from the recent rain helped in the firefighting effort. However, the respite was short lived. As conditions dry, the fire is becoming noticeably more active and trees have started torching. Smoke from the fires will become more visible and health issues may again be of concern.

As conditions change, local communities will be updated regularly. The public is invited to attend another informational meeting at the Happy Camp Grange this Friday at 7 p.m.

A new call center with the latest information has been established in the Klamath National Forest Supervisor’s Office at (530) 841- 4451.

Complex Fire Details

Defensive lines around the following fires are being prepared for a burning operation when conditions become favorable:

Little Grider Fire (approx. 1298 acres)

King Creek II Fire (approx. 2779 acres): Firefighters are planning to work directly on the fire’s edge.

Wingate (approx. 909 acres)

Elk Fire (approx. 1166 acres)

Titus Fire (approx. 2026 acres): There is also a recommended evacuation for homeowners, campers, and miners from Five Mile Bridge to Norcross Campground on the Elk Creek Road. Firelines have been constructed around structures.

The following smaller fires have been contained and will continue to be monitored, patrolled and staffed as resources allow:
Tom Marten Fire (approx. 31 acres)
Clear Fire (approx. 38 acres)

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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