Fire Meeting Saturday Night & Wednesday

Fire Incident Command was handed over to Mike W after two weeks.

Fire Incident Command was handed over to Mike W after two weeks.

Size: 44,549 acres total for the complex
Containment: 15 percent for the complex
Date Started: August 11, 2014
Estimated Containment Date: September 8, 2014
Estimated Cost to Date: $29 million
Total Personnel: 1,972
Committed Resources: 48 crews, 11 helicopters, 131 engines, 18 dozers, 27 water tenders
First of all, for the most up to date news and opportunity to ask questions, there will be two community meetings tonight. The Seiad meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Seiad Valley Fire Station.
In Happy Camp the meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the Karuk Tribe Senior Nutrition Center (64101 Second Avenue). Team members and Klamath National Forest representatives will present information and answer questions about the Happy Camp Complex fires.

Mandatory Evacuation orders are in effect for the below areas. People in areas under mandatory evacuation should be aware they may not be able to reenter the evacuation area until fire danger has passed. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department will be patrolling 24 hours in the evacuated areas.

Due to increased fire activity of the Happy Camp Complex, the following evacuation orders are currently in effect:
Mandatory Evacuations: Scott River Road from Bridge Flat to the intersection of Hwy. 96 and all areas south of Hwy. 96 between Scott River Road down river to Cade Summit

Advisory Evacuation: All areas north of Hwy. 96 between Scott River Road and Grider Creek

An evacuation center is located at Winema Hall at the Siskiyou County Fairgrounds, 1712 Fairlane Road, Yreka. Both large and small animals will be accommodated at the Fairgrounds. Large animal transport can be arranged through the Sheriff’s Posse. Contact Jodi Aceves, (530) 340-2422 to arrange transport. For more information contact the Siskiyou County Sheriff Department at (530) 841-2900.

Fire Information: The Happy Camp Complex has grown over 13,000 acres on Friday to 57,722 acres and is 15-percent contained. The fires merged into one.

The Faulkstein Fire: Last evening fire activity was significant with fire spread to the north and east along Highway 96. A cold front passed through the area, and shifting winds with unstable air caused a smoke plume to develop leading to an abundance of embers spreading out from the main body of the fire. Communities that are threatened by the fire are Happy Camp, Elk Creek, Seiad, Hamburg, Kelsey Creek and Scott Bar. Structure protection groups composed of hand crews and engines are engaged and are placed in strategic locations to assist in protecting homes and property should the fire move into these areas.

Structure defense groups utilize hose and sprinkler systems to assist in fighting fire. Additional duties include locating water sources and clearing of combustibles around structures. The fire is also established in Tyler Meadows and moving east toward Middle Creek Meadow’s.

The Frying Pan Fire: Friday’s fire activity over much of the Happy Camp Complex was a repeat of the previous day. The fire has reached the Klamath River just east of Grider Creek. Firefighters contained a spot fire that ignited across Highway 96 between Hamburg and Seiad. The north edge of the fire is holding west of Grider Creek, though east of Grider Creek the fire is moving to the east and northeast. Containment lines near Happy Camp and on the west side of the fire continue to hold. Air operations took advantage of the clear skies, using helicopters and air tankers to drop water and retardant on the north and south ends of the complex.
The fire is threatening approximately 200-250 structures within evacuation areas. Completed and ongoing protective actions include limbing trees, clearing brush, removing yard debris and brushing roads. A total of 131 engines are supporting fire suppression and structure protection activities within both zones of the fire.
Fire activity in the south end of the fire has slowed as it moves into the 2008 Panther Fire perimeter. Tactical ignitions took place along a dozer line in this section to strengthen and extend containment lines.

Forest Closure Order No. 14-05-755 is in effect for Klamath National Forest lands affected by the Happy Camp Complex. For details on this closure and other fire area closures, please see
Approximately 75 percent of the 1.7 million acre Klamath National Forest remains open to forest adventures.

Weather and Fire Behavior: Today there will be gusty northwest winds, with daytime temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-80s; nighttime temperatures will be in the 50s. Tonight minimum temperature will be in the low to mid 50s with a weak to moderate inversion layer. The fire remained active into the night with primary fire spread from spot fires caused by rolling materials and tree torching. This will continue to be the case today. Expect an acceleration of fire behavior when the inversion lifts.

Safety: A Clean Air Respite Center is located at the Karuk Tribe Senior Nutrition Center in Happy Camp (64101 Second Avenue). The center is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and will remain open longer if needed due to smoky conditions.

Air quality: Today, stronger northwesterly winds, cooler temperatures, and better smoke dispersion continue into the weekend. Conditions will still be smoky for communities southeast of the fires but better dispersion should provide a few hours of cleaner air. By Saturday evening smoke impacts could reach Weaverville and Redding.

Fire Siege of 1987 Remembered

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.”

Some Closures Lifted on Klamath River Access

The Klamath National Forest Announces the Reopening of Three Existing Klamath River Closures and Continuing One Closure

Yreka, CA–Klamath River access has been reopened for the following areas; Indian Creek Access, Curly Jack Day Use Access, and Chamber’s Flat River Access. This is a result of increased containment of the Elk Complex wildfire and reduced conflict with helicopter operations. However, boaters need to avoid landing on the fire side of the Klamath River (east or south side depending on the orientation of the river segment). Hazards still exist in the fire area including loose rocks and debris, as well as a high number of rattlesnakes.

Based on concern for the safety of the public and firefighters, the Wingate Bar River Access area, located in the W ¼ of Section 5, T.15 N., R.7 E., HM, continues to be closed to launching of boats.

Elk Fire Complex Town Meeting for Happy Camp

Crowds at the Town Meetings have noticeably thinned. There was no one from the Sheriff’s Department advising us on evacuation plans. There was no one from the National Type 1 Team under Mike Dietrich because the teams changed on Monday. Kent Swartzlander, Incident Commander a couple of weeks ago, and his team are back to work on the fire for the next couple of weeks.

All the news was good news. While there were questions, more than one citizen in the meeting made a point to say “thank you” to the firefighters for their work and professionalism and for keeping us informed.

They are still watching, patrolling and mopping up. Elk Creek Road is still closed at Five-mile Bridge.

Phyllis Swanson, who wore a National Park Service patch on her shoulder, was the Public Information Officer who began the meeting. Don Hall, Deputy District Ranger was back from a few days off, which we were glad to hear. Fatigue management is important in keeping our firefighters and all of the planning and support personnel safe. Being overly fatigued from too many 14 to 16 hour days is a good way to have casualties.

Harold Tripp of Karuk Department of Natural Resources says that he was very pleased with both teams that have been here working these fires. He said it used to be that he didn’t like some of the back burns, but when done carefully, keeping low intensity and slowly creeping down hill, he has seen how very effective it can be.

Present manpower is about 900 firefighters and in the next four or five days it will be reduced to half that. At the same time, they will continue to monitor and patrol, and there will be restoration and repair projects going on.

The nice thing about these public Town Meetings is the opportunity to meet new residents to Happy Camp. It was an added joy and good occasion when we face possible disaster together. The main theme of tonight’s meeting was that we are very grateful for the work, skill, and abilities of the firefighting teams who save our town and community!

ONE LAST THING, this story could have had a much more disastrous ending if it had not been for our Fire Safe Council. They have worked for the last few years to put a ring of protection around our community so that a wildfire coming our way could be more easily controlled. If you appreciate their work, please tell them so. Better yet, volunteer to help them as they are very busy people who put in a great many hours to help the community in this way. Duane Armbruster, 493-2740, also put up the sign, by the car wash. George Harper, Carol Sharpe, and George Bernhard are crucial personnel on this volunteer organization that helps keep us safe from fire.

Monday Accident on Elk Fire Complex

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.

Monday Update on Elk Fire Complex


July 23, 2007

Total Complex Acreage: 9,085 acres

Incident Resources: 1,145 personnel

Total Complex Containment: 22% 

Expected Full Containment: 7/29/2007Cost to Date: $8,201,274

Injuries to Date (minor): 8

Structures Threatened: 550

The top priority is the protection of the Happy Camp, Hamburg, and Elk Creek communities. Yesterday, crews made great progress constructing fireline (see list below). The burnout on the Little Grider Fire began yesterday and initial results were positive. An increase in smoke is expected in the Happy Camp area. Additional fire activity was observed as a result of a warming trend.

Complex Fire Details

Of the thirty identified fires in the Elk Complex, 24 fires are 100% contained. The fires will continue to be monitored, patrolled and staffed as resources allow. The remaining six fires are as follows:

  • Little Grider Fire (1,952 acres) 50% contained. The first stage of the Perkins Gulch burnout was conducted and yielded beneficial results.
  • King Creek II Fire (2895 acres) 25 % contained. Firefighters made significant progress on the fire’s southern and western perimeters.
  • Wingate (916 acres) 5% contained. Crews established a line from Titus Ridge west to the Klamath River.
  • Elk Fire (1144 acres) 40% contained. Crews are camped near the fire and continue containment efforts.
  • Titus Fire (2026 acres) 5% contained. A recommended evacuation for homeowners, and closure for campers and miners, from Five Mile Bridge to Norcross Campground on Elk Creek Road remains in placeFirelines have been constructed around structures.
  • Hummingbird Fire (80 acres) 0% contained.

 Evacuation Planning:

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has taken steps to locate an evacuation center at Seiad Elementary School in the event evacuation becomes necessary.  Individuals with special needs, such as those requiring mobility assistance, need to notify the Sheriff’s Office ahead of time.

In the event of an evacuation, small animals will be accepted at Seiad Elementary and large animals may be taken to the Karuk Ranch at China Grade Road at the two-mile marker.  All animal owners are asked to be responsible for the feeding and care of their pets at both locations.

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