Friday’s Town Hall meeting at the Happy Camp Grange was smaller than previous meetings. While it is encouraging that the residents of Happy Camp feel safer, communication is a vital part of being in the midst of a wildfire crisis. The threat is abated with the rain and cooler temperatures, but with another two months of fire season to go, and several active fires in the vicinity, the crisis isn’t over yet.
Don Hall, Deputy District Ranger, spoke to the questions about what ‘you guys’ are doing. He drove down Curly Jack showing the Klamath National Forest Supervisor what was happening and there were hotshot crews next door to his own home. Teams were going door to door on Curly Jack Road, Division L for evacuation purposes, and informing residents of precautions and preparations. At his home, in the early morning hours, smoke was wafting up from the Wingate, also. So it isn’t ‘those guys’ – it is our neighbors involved. Those from far away usually live in a place where they also experience this same crisis. So the people making the decisions about this fire are not only considering public safety from a professional level but also feel it very personally.
Just a few days ago the wind was 20 to 30 mph, the temperatures were going over 100, we had raging crown fires and lots of smoke. They were planning to build a protected box like area around the town.
Then the rain slowed things down. The crews didn’t sit back and relax. They have put in 30 miles of bulldozer line and 34 miles of hand lines and brush clearing. That’s a lot of hard work but the forest dries out fast at 100-degree heat. On Wednesday afternoon the Wingate fire had showed what it could do when it traveled 2+½ miles in four hours! We are grateful for only one additional injury and that it was minor.
They are ready to go on more direct attack where possible. In some areas that are ‘steeper than a cow’s face’ Dietrich said that they are too steep and too isolated and couldn’t get a dozer in unless they park it in the river, ‘which is not cool.’ Firefighters are too dear to risk to rock climbing challenges. As Incident commander, Mike Dietrich also mentioned that everyone in the country is working with fires in Idaho, Utah and Nevada as well as elsewhere.
Sheriff’s Dept, Sgt John Evans said Seiad School remains the emergency evacuation site and signs have been posted. Be prepared, and once you do clear evacuation areas, keep the roads clear and don’t block the firefighters work.
Kirk Eadie, Assistant Chief of the Happy Camp Volunteers, also said we need to keep “heads up”. Keep informed. Be ready and be prepared. We appreciate Mike Dietrich and his team keeping us informed so we don’t fall to senseless rumors but can know the truth.
Harold Tripp, with the Karuk Tribe, said it is great working on this team with Don and Alan, Happy Camp District Ranger. His job is to inform firefighting teams about protecting any cultural sensitive areas and he was glad that the fire has not destroyed any sites. The dozer lines are following previous lines as much as possible.
Questions from the gathered Happy Camp citizens involved bringing their horses home, how long the river would be closed to rafting, and how the fire will affect the river view. Many questions have to wait to see what happens in the next four or five days but the team is doing all it can to limit the intensity and severity of damage to as much land as possible and ensure public safety and protect lives of both community and firefighters. Thankfully injuries have been minor considering the harsh terrain where the fires are located. Next meeting is scheduled at the Grange on Tuesday, July 24th at 7 o’clock.