Gap Fire Devours More Wildland, Growing by Thousands of Acres
The wildfire burning northeast of Happy Camp which chewed through 1000’s of acres and multiple structures in a 24 hour period continued to grow, though more slowly, yesterday. Estimates from heat mapping indicate the fire has now consumed about 8820 acres.
Yesterday, according to the US Forest Service the “strong smoke layer” moderated the fire somewhat. Highway 96, they say, “is now open with controlled, piloted traffic through the fire area.”
However, Will Harling, Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, is still very concerned. He wrote,
The Gap Fire made a big run up (aptly named) White Cloud Mountain between Middle Creek and the main stem of Horse Creek today….This fire is making significant runs every afternoon with the prevailing winds. Luckily today the wind took it north away from homes (at least homes on this side of the Siskiyou Crest)… The prevailing afternoon wind direction will make the difference in the coming days. This fire could come into Seiad, into Oregon, up the east side of the Scott, wherever the winds take it. Pray for rain and cool weather and inversion! And for all the families on Horse Creek whose homes were lost or are in danger. And for the firefighters on the frontlines. There’s a lot of room for this fire to run.
In addition to the run up White Cloud Mountain, according to the Forest Service, “activity increased late yesterday evening as the fire burned north out of Maple Gulch. Crews continued to construct both direct and indirect handline across most portions of the fire, and structure defense remained in place overnight in the community of Horse Creek.”
Will Harling argues that suppression of wildfires after they start is not the best strategy. He wrote,
…[F]or the record, logging wouldn’t have kept this fire from happening. Only not suppressing wildfires for the past century would have. But now we must deal with this issue through a mix of strategies from prescribed fire, to manual and mechanical thinning where appropriate. Perhaps the biggest step is for our communities and fire management agencies coming to terms with the size and scope of this problem. We need more resources allocated for fire prevention, pre-fire planning, for prescribed burns, and strategic fuels reduction treatments at a scale ten times what we have currently done.
He believes that though the cost of using thinning and prescribed fire will be large “even still it will only cost a fraction of what it costs to battle these blazes in the worst conditions, and that’s not even counting the costs of the many homes that were lost.”