ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Highway from Rogue Valley to coast remains closed by wildfire in California

The Smith River Complex fire burns on the north side of Highway 199, the Redwood Highway, near Patrick Creek Lodge north of Gasquet in this image posted Thursday on the Inciweb site. Bill Steven photo
August 17, 2023

Lightning strikes start multiple blazes in the Klamath and Six Rivers national forests

By Shaun Hall, Rogue Valley Times

The main route between the Rogue Valley and the Oregon and California coasts, Highway 199, remained closed Thursday in California due to a wildland fire on both sides of the road.

“We don’t have an anticipated time of reopening,” Myles Cochrane of the California Department of Transportation said Thursday morning. “It’s extremely unfortunate. We recognize the importance of this artery.”

“There’s not much you can do when you’re battling Mother Nature, especially at this magnitude.”

A map shows status of the Smith River Complex fires as of 2 p.m. Thursday. The Kelly Fire, one of several in the complex, has forced closure of Highway 199 connecting the Rogue Valley to the coast. Base map by Google Earth

Flames from the Kelly Fire, part of the Smith River Complex, were across the highway in the Patrick Creek area, with the fire’s edge within a few hundred feet of Patrick Creek Lodge, according to an official fire map posted to Inciweb.

Evacuation orders have been issued by the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office for the areas of Patrick Creek, Little Jones Creek, Copper Creek and Coon Creek.

Flames and smoke rise above the Smith River near Highway 199 on Wednesday afternoon. Caltrans photo

The highway was closed as of 2 p.m. Wednesday and remains closed from the agricultural inspection station near the Oregon-California border to Pioneer Road near Gasquet, California, a distance of nearly 20 miles.

Debris blocks Highway 199 Thursday at a spot along the Smith River known as “The Narrows” where the Kelly Fire is burning. Caltrans photo

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, the Smith River Complex of 13 fires was burning on more than 1,500 acres, according to a social media posting from the Six Rivers National Forest.

To the east on Thursday morning, in the Klamath National Forest, the Head Fire located about 20 miles west of Yreka was about 3,500 acres, more than five square miles, with 0% containment. The fire is burning at the confluence of the Klamath and Scott rivers. In addition to the Head Fire, 19 other fires were sparked by lightning in the area, and all are being managed by Type 1 California Interagency Incident Management Team 5.

Firefighters have been protecting structures in the area, according to a morning posting by national forest personnel. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has issued evacuation orders for the area.

Light rain and and higher humidity late Wednesday and early Thursday helped moderate fire behavior on the Head Fire, according to the KNF statement.

At least 43 fires burned in the Klamath and Six Rivers national forests in the wake of lightning storms this week.

Information on road closures is available online at quickmap.dot.ca.gov in California and tripcheck.com in Oregon. Or dial 511 in Oregon or 707-445-6600 in California.

Reach Rogue Valley Times outdoors and environmental reporter Shaun Hall at 458-225-7179 or shall@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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