February 26, 2024
Many of the lightning-caused fires in Northern California have been burning for two weeks now, prompting evacuations. Thousands of firefighters are working on suppression efforts across the region, with resources spread over dozens of wildfires.

Many of the lightning-caused fires in Northern California have been burning for two weeks now, prompting evacuations. Thousands of firefighters are working on suppression efforts across the region, with resources spread over dozens of wildfires.

Smith River Complex

The Smith River Complex in Del Norte County and southern Oregon is now 6% contained, at over 70,000 acres. Adverse weather patterns are expected for Wednesday and Thursday this week, according to a Monday USFS release on the complex. Crews are working to contain as much as possible before it sets in.

RELATED: Map: Smith River wildfire at edge of Northern California town

“The fires are burning in extremely rugged terrain with limited access. A year of below average rainfall has the vegetation unseasonably dry, causing a high resistance to control. Despite these difficult conditions, ground and air resources have been engaged in full suppression efforts,” the Inciweb overview notes. 2,661 personnel are reportedly working on this complex.

A sawyer walks along a fire line Saturday, West of Gilligan Butte. “He and other firefighters are building fire lines and removing fuels adjacent to the lines north of the Kelly Fire, southwest of O’Brien,” a release notes. (Contributed/Image via inciweb) 

Structure preparation and containment lines for homes have been the focus on the Kelly Fire, the largest out of the complex. Burning operations near the French Hill Road area were taken to limit the western spread of the fire. Prep work, dozer lines and engine crews are all at work there, with containment lines being put in.

Tom Himmelrich, a fire official, said during a Sunday briefing that structure prep in Gasquet has been underway for about a week now.

As for the other fires in the complex, the release notes that poor visibility is again preventing helicopter firefighting on the Diamond Fire.

“Although smoky conditions didn’t allow for much air support throughout the day, several fixed wing air tankers were able to place aerial retardant along the northeast flank of the Coon fire to keep it from crossing over to the eastern side of the 405, the planned control line for this portion of the fire,” the release said.

A 60 acre “slop-over” of a line on the Hurdy Gurdy Fire was being worked on as of Sunday, with crews also building containment lines between the Kelly and Hurdy Gurdy to prevent them from joining.

A plan to reopen State Route 199 for escorted travel twice a day has been put on pause until at least Aug. 30, according to a CHP news release. This is due to “aggressive fire behavior and severe weather,” in Oregon. Two management teams have been on the fires, with part of the complex being handled by Incident Management Team CERT team from Pacific Northwest and the California Interagency Incident Management Team 15 managing the rest.

An evacuation has been ordered in Oregon near the California border near the State Route 199 area south of O’Brien. A release notes that “Firefighters continue to concentrate on protecting the communities and scattered structures near O’Brien and Takilma, and along Lone Mountain Road.” Poor visibility impacted firefighters and winds are predicted for the next few days. Smoke from other fires is reportedly likely to impact firefighting.

Air quality in Gasquet is hovering at periods of unhealthy to very unhealthy, according to the North Coast Air Quality Management District.

Evacuation orders have included parts of southern Oregon for the north part of the complex. (Contributed/Inciweb) 

Updates on the complex can be viewed at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/casrf-smith-river-complex

The Lightning Complex

The total acreage of the Lightning Complex burns at over 10,000 acres, with a containment of 15%.

Firefighting on Redwood State and National Parks land had a “successful weekend,” said Jake Akerberg, operations branch director in Monday’s NPS update. More growth is not expected on these fires, he noted.

The Lost Fire, the largest of the fires on NPS land, is now 40% contained at 722 acres, with CalFire and Green Diamond Resource Co. working on suppression efforts. Crews are holding the fire on Holter Ridge, according to a USFS news release. This fire is mostly in second growth forest with a small portion slowly spreading downslope into old growth. According to the release, high humidity there has reduced fire activity.

The Bridge Ridge fire, at 17 acres, is expected to be contained by the end of the day Monday. Two other small fires have been contained. One is the Glen fire that as of Monday involves a “single old growth redwood,” with minimal heat in it, said Akerberg. There is a water system being deployed to address this fire.

In Orleans, air quality is at periods of unhealthy and very unhealthy, according to the North Coast Air Quality Management District. The nearby Pearch fire fire is estimated at 2,278 acres.

“Yesterday, crews began a firing operation along the south side of the fire. They continue to prepare for a burning operation along the west side of the fire to prevent the fire from a westerly spread towards Orleans,” a USFS release notes. Work to protect structures is underway, with sprinkles and hose lines deployed.

Smaller fires including the Creek, Flat, Iron and Blue Creek fires are contained, with the Merrill mountain fire expected to be in patrol status by the end of Monday. Fires currently unstaffed due to terrain and safety include the Monument, Hancock in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and the Let er-Buck fire.

The Lone Pine Fire in the Hoopa area is 90% contained, at 1,684 acres. The release notes that the fire is smoldering with minimal growth and isolated areas of heat.

Containment lines have been built around the Mostquito fire at 1,945 acres. The Bluff #1 fire at 1,419 acres has seen minimum movement and firing operations have been utilizied. The Creek 2 fire and Marlow fire are each around 1,000 acres.

A fire has been added to the complex, the Marlow fire at over 1,000 acres.

Happy Camp

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The Happy Camp complex in the Klamath National Forest burns at 19,205 acres with an overall containment of 29%.

“Today, firefighters will continue to hold and improve fire lines,” a Monday USFS release noted of the west side of fires.

The Elliot fire merged with Swillup Fire, which continues to back towards highway 96. The west side of the now Elliot fire is active, burning at a total of 7,877 acres and 2% contained. Two other fires include the Malone and the Ufish, at 7% and 0% containment respectively.

The Head fire is seeing direct line construction Monday, with hopes of building fire lines across the west and north flanks near the community of Hamburg. East lines will also be improved. The head fire is at 6,844 acres and 35% contained. Five other fires burn on the east side of the complex.

A total of 3,421 personnel are reportedly working on the complex. 1,609 structures are threatened and over 300 people have been evacuated. Evacuation zones can be found here community.zonehaven.com

Sage Alexander can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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