Crews have largely tamed the Klamathon fire, which burned 36,500 acres in northern California and southern Oregon over the past week. The fire is 65 percent contained and the area has seen minimal fire behavior since Tuesday.
The fire perimeter hasn’t grown for three days and only a relatively small area of rugged terrain remains without containment lines. Mark Brown is Chief of Operations for CalFire Team 4. At what was described as the final public briefing on the Klamathon fire, Brown said the incident is winding down.
“We’re definitely on the downslope,” he said. “But we’re still not out of the woods. We still have some tough work to complete, but confidence levels increase every day.”
The major remaining area of potential threat is along the northern edge of the fire, which is still burning in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the Soda Mountain Wilderness. While the fire is no longer spreading, the heavy fuel loads and steep topography of that area have made for slow going for firefighters trying to build containment line.
The heat wave forecast for the next week could also be a challenge. The National Weather Service is calling for daytime highs over 100 degrees starting Thursday. That could create conditions conducive to wildfire. The possibility of thunderstorms and lightning over the weekend also has fire managers on alert.
Still, the containment lines were tested by gusty winds earlier in the week and held, and no new winds are forecast.
In response, managers are drawing down their forces, sending fire fighters and equipment to higher-priority fires.
Most evacuation orders have been canceled or downgraded and most residents are returning to their homes. That includes Hornbrook, California, which was heavily damaged last Thursday when high winds pushed the fire through town, destroying homes and leading to the death of one resident. Power has been restored to Hornbrook but the water system remains offline and could be for days. Potable water is being trucked into town for the time being.
Dave Larson, with the Oregon Department of Forestry, noted during the briefing that, while the Klamathon fire was brought under control fairly quickly, the summer fire season is only just getting underway.
“I’d say we’re a month ahead of schedule,” he said. “And as we move forward into August, the conditions unless it rains or something happens is only going to get worse. We’re in this for probably the next 10 to 12 weeks, so we’re going to be in some pretty critical times unless it rains.”