By, Rachel Smith, Forest Supervisor, Klamath National Forest
As August approaches, I want to take a moment to check in and share some of the recent happenings on the Klamath National Forest and our neighboring national forests in the North State and southern Oregon.
First, where we were…
When we held our pre-season meetings along with CAL FIRE Siskiyou Unit and Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services back in May, the outlook for fire season was bleak: it was the third year of drought, and with reservoirs at record lows staffing concerns had us all on edge. After enduring two years of pandemic we experienced a surge in COVID-19 infections. Some welcome rainfall in the month of June, as well as a rare rainy 4th of July weekend, has afforded the Klamath to not only catch the 11 fires we’ve had so far quickly and keep them small, but it also enabled us to provide support to Alaska and the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Texas) during their historic fire seasons – including many of the forests, parks, and fire departments that provided folks to help us here on the Klamath last summer.
Where we are…
Firefighters have made good progress on containment of the fires in Alaska and the Southwest, in part thanks to more favorable weather. Most of our Klamath resources are back on forest along with additional resources that we are hosting in coordination with North Ops (aka the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center). Forest Fire Management Officer Mike Appling and Deputy Forest Fire Management Officer Heather McRae have arranged to supplement these resources by bringing in additional key overhead personnel in anticipation of increased fire potential. Currently, we have two hand crews, several engines, and a helicopter with helitack crew. These resources have come to the Klamath from near and far, including the BLM’s Northern California District, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (NV), and contract fire crews from across the Pacific Northwest. These visiting resources are in addition to the Klamath’s own 12 engines, 2 hotshot crews, 14 prevention units, and heavy helicopter that are on forest. On top of that, Region 5 has numerous air resources staged around northern California, including 3 very large air tankers (VLATs) in Sacramento, 2 large air tankers in Redding, 2 Super Scoopers in Chico and 17 smokejumpers available in Redding. With the incredibly hot and dry weather (it is supposed to be 105 today in Yreka!) we anticipate fuel moistures will drop rapidly, increasing fire danger. Right now, we’re feeling comfortable with the interagency resources that we, CAL FIRE and our local partners have in Siskiyou County and our ability to respond in force to any new starts. That said – our resources could get pulled away quickly if there is an immediate threat to life or property from a wildfire anywhere in California.
Where we are headed…
We know that we can expect several rounds of lightning across the northern California as we do every year at the end of July and early August – some of that is in the forecast for this evening. We will continue to supplement our firefighting resources with additional workforce as long as we can get them- I’d rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them. We know that Mother Nature will likely give us a few lightning-caused fires to contend with and we are prepared for that. But we need everyone’s help to make sure that human-caused fires don’t add to our firefighters’ workload. Please help protect our forest and communities and take care with anything that can start a fire.
Because of the recent hot and dry weather, our fire indices are steadily creeping up and will continue to do so. Last week our neighboring forests to the north and east implemented fire restrictions and tomorrow the remainder of the forests in the North State will implement fire restrictions. We are closely monitoring conditions and moving towards implementing fire restrictions on the Klamath National Forest that will only permit campfires in developed recreation sites and wilderness areas, along with some other restrictions. If you are going out to enjoy your public lands on the Klamath National Forest, please check in with our web site (https://www.fs.usda.gov/klamath) or call any of our offices to see what fire restrictions may be in place.
If you’ve made it this far – thank you for sticking with me! Overall, I am happy with how things have been going to this point thanks to all of you, recent precipitation and our great employees here on the Klamath National Forest. Thank you all for your help and support in our efforts to keep the air across the North State smoke-free by doing your part in preventing wildfires. I’m planning to resume Patty Grantham’s practice of sending out periodic messages during the fire season. I’ve mostly reconstructed her original mailing list, but if you’d like to sign up to be sure you receive my messages,
please click here: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/HIz3S9k.