Over 100 Fires in the Past Four Weeks in Northwestern California
The Forest Service is celebrating containing over multiple fires in the Klamath National Forest Over 100 fires across northwestern California (most of them lightning strikes) have been fought to a standstill in the rugged mountains. Only the Butler Fire and the Corral Complex are still uncontained. The Butler Fire is at over 21,710 acres and is 66 % contained. The Corral Complex has burnt over 12,200 acres and is 79% contained.
US Forest Service Press Release:
In the world of wildfire management, they are called “lightning busts.” However, this term begins to lose meaning when they come every week for over a month. Add two large fires totaling 36,000 acres under management of the Klamath National Forest, and you have one busy fire season in Siskiyou County.
“No one individual, module, department, district or even organization can be given full credit for this nearly unbelievable success, everyone worked as an amazing team,” said Forest Fire Chief, Ed Guzman. “Everybody from the Klamath National Forest would like to offer the deepest gratitude to CAL FIRE and local volunteer firefighters for all their hard work and success as well.”
“This has been a coordinated effort with all involved,” said Happy Camp Division Chief, Terry Walter. “We had two Forest Service fire crew members on light duty who have done a great job in dispatch, recreation folks running here and there to support the firefighters, office folks who have jumped in and helped with buying teams, finance, electronic record-keeping, planning and check in/out procedures.” This goes for all areas on the forest.
One week stands out as especially memorable. It was the last lighting storm on Aug. 20 and for a few days after the lightning just kept coming. Luckily this last storm was a “wet” one, bringing with it over an inch of rain in some areas.
KNF crews responded as usual to reports of smoke. Some stayed the night out in the elements after reaching fires through the rugged terrain for which the Klamath is famous. Even the three smoke-jumpers sent from Idaho had to hike three hours from their drop-point to reach the Clear Fire near Happy Camp. After that hike they spent the next few nights holding the fire, working in the rain to assure it was out. They called for no additional help.
Walter continued, “The success story here is more than three smoke-jumpers caught a fire, it is over the past four weeks forest crews have caught and managed over 100 fires. All have been kept small with no serious injuries.”
The Oak Knoll Division saw 19 fires, all kept to one-half acre or less. The Black Mountain fire required a four-hour hike for the crew to respond. They stayed out all night in the rain to get it under control. Division Chief Jim Allen said, “They looked like drowned rats when they got back in.”
Allen said it was a couple days before they could get back out and check some fires because the roads were so bad from the rain. The Oak Knoll area had one holdover fire come to life after three days of smoldering. “I’ve seen them lay down for two weeks, even over the whole winter burning inside a tree,” said Allen.
On the Goosenest Ranger District, crews responded to, contained and controlled more than 30 fires in July and August. One fire reported nearly a week after the latest lightning in the area was thought to have smoldered during the rain under a log before coming to life and putting up enough smoke to be seen. This is a good example of the ability of heavy fuels to hold heat from lightning until weather conditions and relative humidity become favorable to fire spread.
Klamath National Forest Fire crews are careful to keep a close watch on areas hit by lightning, as well as fires previously contained and controlled or even called out.
The Salmon-Scott Ranger District was busy with the Salmon River Complex and Butler Fire, but with some help from Incident Management Teams still responded to and kept all lightning starts small. Some were deep in rugged and remote country in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. The district had 32 total fires. All but two were caused by lighting. “It’s only the two human-caused fires that gave us any trouble,” said Battalion Chief, Mike Smith.