Fire managers have expressed cautious optimism that they will be able to continue making progress against the Klamathon fire in the coming days.
So far, the fire has burned 36,500 acres in northern California and southern Oregon and is 40 percent contained. 34 homes and 43 other structures have been destroyed, and more than 3,100 people have been evacuated or sheltered.
At a briefing in Ashland Monday evening, CalFire Team 4 Chief of Operations Mark Brown told several hundred local residents that the south end of the fire is well in hand, and that hose has been removed from that area.
Brown said lines on the west side of the fire had been connected yesterday and held, despite brisk winds today. That allowed officials to downgrade Hilt from an evacuation order to a warning, and to drop the Level 3 (“GO!”) evacuation for the Colestin area to a Level 2 (“Get Set”). The Mt. Ashland Ski Road evacuation has been downgraded from Level 2 to Level 1 (“Ready”).
Brown said some of the hardest work that remained is on the northern side of the fire, over the Oregon border into the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and the Soda Mountain Wilderness, where heavy fuel buildup and rugged terrain create challenges. But overall, Brown said, he felt good about the progress being made.
“Today was a pivotal day because of the winds,” he said. “Sometimes the winds are good for us because it tells us how good our lines are, and the lines are currently holding. So it’s given us more confidence as we move forward.”
Rich Thompson, with the National Weather Service, is calling for strong northwest winds across the fire area Monday night. He said those winds could create more fire activity, but because they coming from the north, they’re blowing the fire back on itself, and are likely to help keep the fire from spreading.
On the other hand, Thompson said, a warming trend is likely to bring temperatures into the upper 90s and low 100s over the next few days, and that those hot, dry conditions could create a more active fire.
Still, he said, “Given the work the fire fighters are doing on the ground, I think they should be able to weather the warmer, drier conditions pretty well.”
Thompson said there’s a slight chance the weekend could bring thunderstorms, which could set off more fires.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said cadaver dogs had given indications Monday morning they may have located a body in the wreckage of a destroyed home. If that does lead to the recovery of a body, that would be the second fatality related to the Klamathon fire. Another body was recovered from a burned home last week in Hornbrook. That body has not been identified, but Lopey said an autopsy has been scheduled.