Agness residents in Level 3 — GO! — evacuation order zones were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday afternoon after firefighters attacked spot fires that ignited in high winds last Sunday.
Those in Level 3 evacuation areas — north of 33 Road from Spud Road to Coon Rock Bridge and including Agness RV Park and Cougar Lane Lodge — are now in Level 2, or “Be Ready” evacuation status.
As of Friday, and due to a reduced danger to homes, the Sheriff made an additional reduction in evacuation areas:
All residents on Spud Road west of the Illinois River will move from Level 3 (GO) to Level 2 (BE SET).
Level 3 (GO) remains in effect for all of Oak Flat Road, Old House and all residents south of the 33 (Agness) Road from the Illinois River Bridge to the Coon Rock Bridge.
All other areas currently in a Level 2 (BE SET) will remain in a Level 2 at this time.
With the decreased threat to structures, an additional Oregon State Fire Marshal structural protection task force has been released to protect their home community. Three structural task forces remain to patrol and protect local homes both day and night.
The reignition of the Klondike wildfire took officials by surprise, they admitted in a community meeting in Gold Beach Tuesday. Water tanks and hundreds of miles of fire hose had been hauled out of the backcountry, crews were mopping up and making repairs and the Burned Area Emergency Team had begun its reconnaissance work.
“It kind of surprised me,” Curry County Sheriff John Ward told county commissioners Wednesday morning, about the reignition of this summer’s megafire. “A week earlier I’d talked with incident command and he said … the fire was a non-issue at the time.”
Ten of the 12 spot fires that reignited from the dormant Klondike Fire were contained Wednesday, fire officials said, and the remaining ones were anticipated to be contained by Friday night. The largest is 150 acres and burning so slowly firefighters are digging fire lines immediately adjacent to it, fire officials said Thursday.
Four helicopters were in the air Thursday.
“Hand crews must be on the ground to mix the water dropped from the helicopter into the burning debris — and especially the underside of heavy dead and down trees,” fire officials said. “Without ‘boots on the ground,’ the heat will hide under the big trees and shaded areas.”
3 months and counting
The Klondike Fire, which ignited July 15 in a lightning storm, had burned more than 167,400 acres before coming back to life. Sunday evening, it jumped Illinois and Indigo creeks and forced the evacuation of residents south of the Rogue River near Agness
The new fire expanded by some 6,000 acres, bringing the burned area to 173,169 acres as of Thursday, the official U.S. Forest Service website indicates.
They might have been caught off guard in Curry County’s unpredictable weather, but fire crews were quick to reassemble, officials said Tuesday at the community meeting.
Forces came in from across the region to attack the fires and build new containment lines; structural firefighters will remain in the Spud, Old House, Oak Flat and 33 roads. In the meantime, restoration work, including road repair and hazard-tree removal, continues.
“Full suppression remains the highest priority at this time,” fire officials said Thursday. “Crews will (continue to build) lines and conduct mop-up on the spot fires and slop-over along the 2308 and 3577 roads.”
The spot fire near Spud Road was contained to 15 acres, and two in the Oak Flat and House Creek area merged to 130 acres. The fires in the Shasta-Costa area are lined and fire crews are conducting mop-up operations.
Reports showed as of 7 p.m. Wednesday, 45 percent of repairs at drop points, heli-spots, heli-bases and spike camps had been completed, as well as the repair of 56 percent of fire and dozer lines created during firefighting operations.
“Dense, stagnant smoke” is being held under a low-pressure zone, keeping the fire at bay, the forest service’s website reported.
Fire officials anticipated the fire to spread via torching trees and short uphill runs, realizing the fire could become active if the weather inversion breaks early.
Weather forecasts are calling for a half- to full inch of rain Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
A Red Cross information center has been established at the First Baptist Church at 29755 Turner St. in Gold Beach.