Fires grow in Happy Camp Complex, total containment at 20 percent

The following is a press release issued by the U.S. Forest Service:

Size: 27,403 acres total for the complex

Containment: 20 percent

Date Started: August 11, 2014

Estimated Containment Date: September 8, 2014

Estimated Cost to Date: $19.9 million

Total Personnel: 1,799

Committed Resources: 56 crews, 8 helicopters, 88 engines, 16 dozers, 23 water tenders

UPDATE:

There will be a community meeting today at 7 p.m. in Happy Camp at the Karuk Tribe Senior Nutrition Center (64101 Second Avenue). Incident personnel and Klamath National Forest representatives will present information and answer questions about the Happy Camp Complex fires.

The Frying Pan Fire grew 2,198 acres yesterday and is now 24,608 acres. The ongoing tactical ignition operations on the south side were temporarily put on hold yesterday because smoke hampered air operations, and some unburned pockets of fuel remain. Last night, because the humidity remained low, the fire on the south side did burn about a mile downslope to Malone Creek and also into Doolittle Creek. The west and northwest sides of the fire were not active last night. The tactical ignition operations on the northeast side of the fire, just south of Wolf Creek, proceeded slowly yesterday, but the fire did continue to burn downhill along the dozer line into the night. Crews working on that ignition operation expect to finish it today.

The fire on the east side along Grider Ridge has slopped over the fireline at the ridgetop in six places and is backing slowly downhill. Firefighters are building fireline north of the slop-overs east of the Wolf Creek area in an effort to halt any northward spread. One crew started constructing line yesterday at the top of Grider Ridge and is advancing downslope toward another crew constructing line upslope. The fire retardant that air tankers applied on Sunday and Monday contributed to slowing down the fire's advancing front, allowing the new incident management team on the east side some time to develop a strategic plan for the eastern edge. The Frying Pan and Faulkstein Fires are approximately one quarter of a mile apart.

The Faulkstein Fire grew 266 acres and is now 2,460 acres. Firefighters are engaging the fire on several fronts. Terrain and fire behavior—both observed and predicted—are primary factors in determining tactics. In the southeast portion, where several spot fires have been burning, crews are attacking the fire both directly and indirectly. Indirect attack is used when it is unsafe to work directly on the fire's edge. These crews are being supported by helicopters dropping water and retardant. The east and north portions of the fire are holding in Grider Creek drainage. Crews are planning to build line along this drainage with the objective of holding it there. Contingency lines are being scouted. The primary area today is the ridgeline near Rancheria Creek toward Bark Shanty Creek. Firefighters are working side by side with resource advisers as they scout the area. Crews have wrapped the Lake Mountain Lookout to provide for structure protection.

Weather and Fire Behavior:

The easterly winds are expected to be very light again today—likely under 5 mph—which will assist firefighters on the north and east sides of the fire. The skies will probably be clear this morning, but expect abundant smoke to settle in around the fire perimeter through the afternoon. The smoke will reduce temperatures and increase humidity slightly, but the day will still be hot and dry.

Safety:

Firefighter and public safety is always the first priority for management teams. Snags are abundant on this fire. Fire can burn out the roots of trees, making them unstable and susceptible to falling at any time, even without strong winds. Another safety issue is escape routes. Firefighters cannot always fight the fire directly at the fire's edge if there is not an adequate escape route in the steep, rugged terrain. Driving and working along busy roads is another safety concern. Firefighters are still working along Highway 96 and the Scott River Road. Motorists should slow down and limit distractions to help keep everyone safe when driving through the fire areas.

A Clean Air Respite Center is available at the Karuk Tribe Senior Nutrition Center in Happy Camp (64101 Second Avenue). The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and will remain open longer if needed due to smoky conditions.

Air quality along the Klamath River drainage is affected by smoke from the Frying Pan and Faulkstein Fires. For more information about air quality in the area, please visit http://californiasmokeinfo.blogspot.com/

An Evacuation Advisory, issued Aug. 13 continues for residents of Happy Camp along China Grade Road from Elk Creek Bridge to Frying Pan Creek. China Grade Road is open to residents only.

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