The Klamathon Fire had consumed 9,600 acres and was five percent contained as of 6 p.m. Friday, according to information presented during a press conference involving multiple agencies at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka.
CAL FIRE representatives noted that the wind has changed direction and is blowing out of the north again. The priority today, they said, was containing the southern edge of the fire, where the largest structure and civilian threat existed.
Residents in the Iron Gate area are now being evacuated, and an evacuation warning has been issued to residents in Copco Lake. The community of Hilt has been evacuated. While that area is at risk, a CAL FIRE representative noted that line has been constructed there and they “feel good about it.” Crews are also constructing line off to the west should the indirect efforts prove unsuccessful, the representative added.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to an incident update distributed by CAL FIRE Friday evening.
The fire has moved into Oregon, and crews from Oregon and California are working together to combat the blaze. Line is also being constructed between California and Oregon. It was also reported that the fire is spreading and moving east.
It was confirmed that 40 structures have been destroyed and five have been damaged. A civilian death was also confirmed. The person was discovered in a structure in Hornbrook. Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey stated that the cause and manner of the individual’s death are still under investigation. The person had not yet been identified and therefore next of kin had not been notified.
Lopey said the community of Hornbrook currently has no water or power. Workers are trying to restore the electricity and water, but it may be a few days before that happens, he noted.
As of Friday evening, 600 to 700 firefighters are working on the incident. CAL FIRE shared that the number of firefighters and law enforcement assigned to the fire is expected to double, if not triple, by Saturday afternoon.
Tim Chavez, a fire behavior analyst with CAL FIRE, said a wide variety of fuels have fed the fire, from light grass to medium brush to pinion juniper to conifer timber stands. “With scant rainfall this winter, the fuels are in August-type conditions,” he described. Steep terrain and river canyons are making operations difficult from both tactical and safety standpoints, he said.
One of the other primary difficulties has been the weather, Chavez reported, noting, “We’ve been under a red flag warning the last 48 hours or so.” That warning expired Friday at 6 p.m. Chavez said wind speeds will be decreasing and the wind will start to move in a more northern direction. The change in weather will also allow for good humidity recovery over the next two nights, he detailed.
Sheriff Lopey praised all responding agencies for an “extraordinary multi-agency effort.” He said a lot of help has come from Oregon and Shasta County, and that the California Army National Guard will soon be assisting with the effort to quell the fire.
The U.S. Forest Service detailed evacuations orders. An evacuation order has been issued for those living on Colestein Road, from Oregon/California border to the Mount Ashland ski road, as well as those living on Highway 99 from the Oregon/California border to the Mount Ashland ski road. Areas under a level 2 or “be set” evacuation notice are the Mount Ashland ski road from Mount Ashland down to Highway 99, as well as Old Highway 99 to just below the Callahan Lodge.
Santa Clara County Fire Captain Bill Murphy said that the briefing updates will continue to be held every evening at 6 p.m. for as long as necessary.