My commitment to you at the beginning of the fire season, along with my partner Chief Anzo with CAL FIRE Siskiyou Unit, was to aggressively fight fires – protecting firefighter and public safety, as well as property and the extraordinary Klamath National Forest.
On Friday the McKinney Fire stole four lives. They were our colleagues, our neighbors and our friends. Compounding the tragedy, an estimated one hundred structures were destroyed, along with 200 outbuildings, devastating the community of Klamath River. Our county and our communities cannot tolerate another such loss.
Over the past few operational shifts, the Yeti fire has pressed closer to the downriver communities of Seiad, Fort Goff, and Thompson, threatening 267 homes. Beyond these vulnerable communities lies Happy Camp with 822 homes, which lost more than 200 homes just two summers ago.
A group of nine fire and line leaders with a combined 154 years of experience on the Klamath National Forest (and considerably more fire experience beyond that…but those years just working on the Klamath – I brought down the average with just two years here!) came together to strategize how we could prevent the Yeti fire from impacting Seiad. Due to the current fire activity we are seeing on the Yeti, we are extremely concerned about a slope reversal and anticipate it happening quite soon. Provided we get clear air, our intent at dusk is to run a thin line of fire down the ridges at the bend of the river at Seiad and allow it to back down the ridge.
My goal is to be open about my decision-making process, but to make decisions based on the best available local knowledge to protect human lives and communities. After asking for input and advice from CAL FIRE, County Government, local fire leadership and the Karuk Tribe, I’ve made the decision to support this firing operation.
-Rachel Rachel Smith, Forest Supervisor, Klamath National Forest
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