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Caldwell Fire In Modoc National Forest Mostly Contained

The Caldwell fire in the Modoc National Forest, on Friday, July 24, 2020
The Caldwell fire in the Modoc National Forest, on Friday, July 24, 2020

Firefighters are making substantial progress on the Caldwell Fire. It is now 85% contained at 80,859 acres

FINAL UPDATE: Saturday, Aug. 1, 5:30 p.m. ... Fire activity on the Caldwell Fire has decreased substantially. This will be the final July Complex written update unless there are any significant developments. For regular updates, please refer to the incident page on Inciweb.

Control lines on all sides of the fire are holding well. There are areas of unburned vegetation in the interior that may still ignite and show smoke.

The southwest edge of the fire remains the most active. Firefighters have placed hose lines with water supply throughout the entire southwest edge, and they continue to improve control lines.

On the northwest side of the fire, crews are primarily mopping-up.

On the north, there is now black line (edge that is considered “contained”) around the entire area, and the heat within the tules has subsided.

On the east side of the fire, crews are ensuring that fuels are cooled and that the fire can withstand wind without crossing over the control line.

Crews on the southeast side are also focused on mop-up.

There are resource specialists examining the fire area to determine what actions are needed to mitigate impacts of firefighting efforts on the land. On most areas of the fire, efforts will soon transition to these suppression repair tactics. More firefighters will now be available for initial attack to address any new fire starts in the Caldwell Fire area.

UPDATE: Friday, July 31, 6:15 a.m. ... Firefighters made progress yesterday on fire control lines and burning operations, especially on the moderately active south and southwest sides of the fire. More smoke was visible yesterday largely due to burning operations by crews to improve control lines.

On the north, the fire burned some wetlands around the south edge of Tule Lake, but the fire did not burn farm fields nearby.

On the west side of the fire, the 49 road (Lassen Volcanic Scenic Byway) is still holding as a fire break. Control lines are holding on the southeast front of the fire.

On the east side, the fire held back along the county 120 road and along control lines around the burn area east of the railroad tracks. Firefighting near the tracks has been assisted by BNSF’s unique fire train, equipped with large water tanks and powerful hoses. Crews are securing the fire’s edge and reinforcing control lines. Smoke will be visible today due to burning operations and pockets of vegetation burning within the interior of the fire.

Crews completed line construction around the perimeter of the former Gillem fire area yesterday.

Red Flag conditions may lead to increased fire behavior today, and drought stressed fuels are still holding heat for long periods of times. Any new starts could show active fire behavior today.

There remains a mandatory evacuation in place for the Medicine Lake Recreation Area. The Lava Beds National Monument remains closed.

ORIGINAL POST: The fires in the July Complex were sparked on July 22 by a thunderstorm that passed through the region. Two of them — the Allen and Dalton fires — are completely lined and at 80 and 90 percent containment, respectively. These fires are minimally staffed because they're not considered to be active threats.

There's also a new lightning-caused fire just northeast of the Caldwell perimeter, now called the “Gillem Fire.” July Complex crews are attending to this fire and have built a significant amount of control line around its perimeter. This fire is approximately 500 acres.

The Caldwell fire, on the other hand has been growing in hot, dry and windy weather over the past few days. It's currently at 67,789 acres and is at 0 percent containment.

Monday’s weather included thunderstorms and erratic winds. This created extreme fire behavior and growth on the Caldwell Fire. Fire was active on the west side of the fire, and firefighters conducted more burning operations near the Lava Beds National Monument Visitor Center and Headquarters, and control lines here are holding well.

On the east side, the fire made a run toward Hwy 139, crossing the railroad tracks and threatening the town of Tionesta, thus prompting an evacuation. The 97 road was closed in the fire area. Aircraft assisted with efforts until weather no longer allowed, and firefighters worked aggressively on direct line construction using heavy equipment, engines, and hand crews. They conducted tactical burning operations off road systems and performed point to point structure protection (going from structure to structure and reducing the potential for ignition by removing burnable material). Crews successfully prevented fire spread into the town.

On the north side of the fire, firefighters constructed direct control line along the fire’s edge and extended the line west and south back toward the Lava Beds National Monument area. Some rain helped calm the fire into the evening; the Caldwell Fire received between 0.1 and 0.25 inches of rain.

There are mandatory evacuations for Tionesta. There remains a mandatory evacuation in place for the Medicine Lake Recreation Area. The Lava Beds National Monument remains closed. For information regarding evacuations, go to the Modoc County Sheriff’s Facebook or website.

The huge amount of smoke produced by the rapid growth of the Caldwell fire has impacted air quality in Klamath County and as far away as the Applegate Valley. On Tuesday morning, Air Quality Index readings in Klamath Falls were in the Unhealthy range, while AQI readings put Medford and Ashland in the Moderate category.