Difficult landscape, dry weather slows fire containment

Reggie Stiteler
A firey sunset settled beyond the Eddys Monday night muted by the looming clouds of smoke emitted by regional wildfires this past week.

North state sunflowers lost their bearings last week as a cloud of dense smoke engulfed the majority of the upper Sacramento Valley and beyond due to the recent rash of regional wildfires.

The situation grew so bad that the President of the United States declared an emergency disaster in California last Saturday and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the area struck by wildfires.

The fires have been so hard to reach that the world's largest water-scooping aircraft, the Martin Mars, was summoned from Canada over the weekend to assist the firefighting effort.

Tuesday the Martin Mars was reported to be working on the Motion Fire near Shasta Lake, one of the closest wildfires to South Siskiyou County which has merged with the Democrat Fire near Keswick earlier this week..

“They are prioritizing it as one of the top three fires along with the Deerlick Complex (west of Ono) and the Moon Complex (northwest of Ono),” said CAL FIRE’s Cyrus Bell.

The Motion Fire has burned 16,500 acres and was 25 percent contained as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Another regional fire infiltrating the fresh mountain air is the Siskiyou Complex southwest of Happy Camp.

“It’s gonna be a lot larger before it’s contained,” said incident information officer Tom Lavagnino. “They had a couple other spot fires today [Tuesday].”

The Siskiyou Complex grew from 1400 acres burned at this point last week, to just under 8000 acres burned – all National Forest property – as of yesterday morning.

Twenty-three percent of the blaze has been contained but the terrain is slowing the progress.

“This is tough, tough country,” Lavagnino said. “Folks are getting pretty beat up hiking in and out seven to eight miles to get there. We’ve started using pack animals to haul in the supplies. We can’t get a helicopter, but if we could it would be too smokey at this point.”

Pilot cars have been escorting traffic through Highway 96, but the road could be closed again with little warning according to a press release from the Oregon and California Interagency Incident Management Team. ORCA advises motorists to expect at least a 20 minute delay if travelling in the vicinity of Highway 96 and Dillon Mountain.

The Dillon Creek Campground remains closed, but the Klamath River access points near Dillion Creek are now open to the public.