Five days after the Klamathon fire raced across the dry grasslands along the Oregon-California border, crews have fought the fire to a standstill. Even after days of gusty winds, containment lines have held and the fire has not increased in size since Monday.
“Any time our lines hold after strong winds like that, that next day is always a good day,” CalFire Team 4 Chief of Operations Mark Brown said at a briefing in Yreka Tuesday evening. “Today we had a good day.”
Officials express increasing confidence that they’ve turned the corner, prompting them to lift some evacuation orders and downgrade others. For the first time since the fire began on July 5, residents are being allowed back into Hornbrook, in Siskiyou County, which sustained heavy damage during the fire’s first day. Power has been restored to the town, but water is still unavailable.
The fire size remains at 36,500 acres. As of Tuesday evening, containment had risen to 55 percent, up from 25 percent just two days earlier.
Mark Brown cautioned that the north end of the fire, burning in Oregon’s Soda Mountain Wilderness, remains a challenge.
“Line production is progressing well, but we still have quite a bit of work left to do in that area. It’s steep, nasty terrain, heavy fuels.”
There’s also concern about the weather. Forecasters are calling for a warming trend through the weekend, with temperatures in the upper 90s or low 100s. And there’s a slight possibility of thunderstorms, which could potentially set off more fires.
Still, with power restored to all areas which lost it, and with more residents being able to return to their homes, officials expect to have the fire completely contained by the end of the weekend.
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said the possible body detected by cadaver dogs in a heavily damaged building turned out to be a false alarm. A forensic team that followed up didn’t find any human remains at the site.
The only known fatality connected with the fire was found near a burned home in Hornbrook last week. Lopey said a positive identification is pending the results of an autopsy Wednesday.