National Guard assists with north state fires

Reggie Stiteler

After urging state residents to conserve water in an executive drought order the previous week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enlisted the state’s National Guard Saturday to assist in extinguishing the overwhelming wildfires that have broke out across the state.

Saturday the governor’s office estimated about 400 fires raged across California. Tuesday CAL FIRE estimated 101 fires remained active in Northern California.

Six helicopters and one RC-26 remote sensing platform were mobilized specifically to northern California – where most of the damage continues to occur. In three of those fires the Siskiyou Unit of CAL FIRE has responded with 15 engines.

“We’ve got the county covered,” Chief Bernie Paul said Tuesday. “We’re just using rented equipment from neighboring departments (while our engines are on call).”

Cal Fire has committed five engines apiece to the Indian Fire outside of King City, the Lake Concow Fire in Butte County and the Shingletown Fire outside of Redding.

The Mt. Shasta Fire Protection District, Mount Shasta City, Fort Jones City, Montague City, Weed City and Etna fire departments, among others, have been assisting the CAL FIRE Siskiyous Unit while their engines are out of the county.

Meanwhile no easing of the dry weather is lingering on the horizon.

“Strong winds and possible lightning is forecast this week,” Paul said. “We’re asking everyone to be extra careful with fires, especially barbeques. It is so dry even the smallest start is going to grow into a large fire. And the state’s resources are already committed.”

A swarm of dry lightning cells was blamed for this past weekend’s fire outbreaks, spanning from Monterey and Fresno Counties to the Oregon–California border, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Siskiyou Complex nearly triples near Happy Camp

Many of the regional fires broke out in neighboring Trinity, Shasta and Lassen counties to the south, with one incident in rural Siskiyou County southwest of Happy Camp.

The fires comprising the Siskiyou Complex attracted 223 firefighters as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Oregon and California incident management team who took the lead from the Klamath National Forest firefighters due to the size and complexity of the incident.

“There has been significant growth since (Monday) night, about 900 acres,” ORCA information officer Vern Farrell said. “Overall the affected area is over 1400 acres.”

“The fire is continuing to back and hook, and make small fingering movements,” Farrell said. “Two of the fires – the Dark Fire and the Three Fire – have combined overnight (Monday).”

ORCA continues to draw resources from different agencies and Farrell expects many more personnel to arrive Wednesday.

Farrell said the Dylan Creek Campground has been closed and to expect road closures in the coming days.  Neither the Marble Mountain Wilderness nor Siskiyou Wilderness have been affected.