wildfire 2018

The big fires of last year left some people with nothing.  Nothing except a chance to rebuild life anew, and a story to tell about it. 

It is those stories that students at Shasta College are collecting in a journalism project supported by California Humanities.  Survival and resilience are the themes of the project. 

California State Parks

The last time Shasta State Historic Park was open was a scary time.  The Carr Fire was bearing down on the park and workers loaded all the portable valuables onto trucks for a trip to Sacramento. 

Only now is the park ready to reopen (on January 25th), minus the Old Schoolhouse, which burned in the fire. 

Park Superintendent Lori Martin and crew spent the last several months making the park habitable again.  

The fires swept through and the government agencies swept in soon after to provide support for fire victims.  But rebuilding after a major fire takes quite a while. 

So groups including the Salvation Army and the Shasta Regional Community Foundation have joined forces in NorCal CRT (community recovery team), designed to provide long-term support to people who lost homes and more in the Carr and Delta fires last summer. 

Cal Fire

It is both unfortunate and a relief to see the speed with which government agencies move in to help the victims of major fires.  We saw it after the Carr Fire hit Redding, we're seeing it again with the Camp Fire, which devastated Paradise. 

Both FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Small Business Administration set up shop soon after the disaster declarations, offering help to both business operators and homeowners. 

Chelsea Irvine of SBA pays a return visit, along with FEMA rep Jovanna Garcia. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR News

West Coast businesses that depend on the summertime tourist dollar took a big hit from this years’ wildfires and smoke.

The same thing happened last year. And two years before that. Now, the idea that smoky summers may become the norm is beginning to take hold, and tourist operators -- and the towns that rely on them -- are looking for ways to adapt.

Klondike Fire Roars To Life, Threatens Homes In Southern Oregon Again

Oct 15, 2018
Photo courtesy of Illinois Valley Fire District, via The Statesman Journal

Oregon’s largest wildfire isn’t finished yet.  

The Klondike Fire roared to life Sunday afternoon, bringing new evacuations to the small town of Agness in the Rogue River canyon.

USFS/Darren Stebbins

How bad was last summer for tourism in the region?  Millions of dollars bad, with cancellations and actual destruction from fire and smoke reaching new levels. 

California, Oregon, and Washington tourism officials have banded together as the West Coast Tourism Recovery Coalition, with one major goal: convince potential visitors that it's safe to visit here.  That might be tricky, especially since longtime residents have their own complaints about the quality of life in the summer. 

Visit California and Travel Oregon officials are assembling plans and approaches. 


Increasingly, wildfires and the smoke they cause are becoming the daily reality of summer in southern Oregon and northern California. On Saturday, several hundred people gathered at Southern Oregon University to hear a series of panel discussions on how local communities could respond.


UPDATE: FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, 9:30 a.m. -- Cooler, moister weather conditions are giving fire crews the change to make strong progress in containing the Delta fire. It's grown slightly to just over 60,000 acres and is 28 percent contained.

I-5 remains open and traffic is flowing while repairs are being made to guardrails and other infrastructure damaged by the fire.

NOTE: Since this fire seems to be in hand, we will make further updates to this report only if new developments warrant. To follow the daily updates issued by managers on the Delta fire, follow this link.

Liam Moriarty.JPR News

In late July, the Carr fire swept through parts of Redding, California and the surrounding area. Now, residents are faced with burned hillsides and more than a thousand home sites contaminated with toxic ash. What are the potential environmental impacts? JPR’s Liam Moriarty went to find out.


Fire season clearly still has a while to go, but it's never too early to talk about what happened this year, and why. 

A Smoke and Fire Summit is set for next weekend (Saturday, September 15th) at Southern Oregon University, to help people better understand the contributing factors to a destructive and smoky summer. We hear from Marko Bey of the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, and Don Ferguson, retired from a long career at the federal Bureau of Land Management working on wildland fires.

Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy recently published a study looking at the history of wildfire behavior in the Rogue River Basin, and will follow it up with a public field trip to look at parts of the forest affected by fire. We hear from its lead author and forest ecologist Kerry Metlen.

More Fire Activity Brings Back The Smoke

Sep 7, 2018
Oregon Smoke Blog

UPDATE: SEPT. 7, 4:00 p.m. -- Active fires in northern California and southern Oregon have brought back smoky air to much of the region. The new Delta fire between Redding and Mount Shasta, in particular, has made for deteriorating air quality along the I-5 corridor in that area.

Oregon Department of Forestry Facebook page

UPDATE: WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 5, 10:00 p.m. -- The containment on the Hugo Road Fire continues to rise as firefighters are making additional progress. The fire is holding at 199 acres and is now 75 contained.


UPDATE: SATURDAY, SEPT. 1 -- A rapidly spreading wildfire that partially shut down northbound I-5 has been brought under control. The highway is back to normal operation.

Liam Moriarty/JPR NEws

Last month, the Carr Fire forced nearly 40,000 people to flee their homes in Redding and the surrounding area. More than a thousand homes were destroyed and many businesses took a major hit. Now, as the smoke literally begins to clear, residents are dealing with the economic fallout of the disaster.

Oregon Department Of Forestry

UPDATE: TUESDAY, AUG. 28, 9:00 p.m. --  Crews are holding the Ramsey Canyon fire in northwest Jackson County to 1,971 acres, and as of Tuesday night had pushed containment to 70 percent.

Northern California authorities have arrested a man they say started the deadly Klamathon Fire last month.

California's fire agency said Thursday that it arrested 32-year-old John Colin Eagle Skoda after investigators concluded that a debris fire he started turned into a 60-square-mile blaze that killed one person and destroyed 35 homes.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Suzi Brady said Skoda quickly lost control of the unpermitted debris fire he started in Siskiyou County about 300 miles north of San Francisco.

Just days after the massive Mendocino Complex Fire ignited in Northern California, fire officials were getting desperate in their emails to Verizon Wireless. As Santa Clara County firefighters mobilized, they discovered that Internet access had slowed to a crawl on the vehicle they were using to coordinate their response.

"Please work with us," Daniel Farrelly, a systems analyst for the Santa Clara Fire Department, entreated the company in an email dated July 30. "All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind."

Ask anyone who lived in Washington's Wenatchee Valley in 2012 about the smoke that year, and they’ll remember. The fires were close and the valley’s dry hillsides trapped the wildfire smoke. It was so bad clinics and drug stores ran out of masks. The air was so choked with smoke that summer camps were canceled and children were kept inside.

Anastazia Burnett won’t forget that summer. More than once, asthma attacks drove her to the walk-in clinic for emergency treatment. At the time, she was newly pregnant with her first child.

Noa Traylor of Weed, California
April Ehrlich | JPR News

Dozens of wildfires are filling the West Coast skies with thick smoke. In Southern Oregon, unhealthy air has forced people to wear smoke-filtering masks almost every day for more than a month. It has become part of the norm.

But in recent weeks, people have gotten tired of wearing the plain white paper masks every day. Instead, they’re investing in nicer ones made of fabric, and some even have artsy designs.