The monster Klondike Fire apparently wasn’t quite done with Curry County.
Residents in Agness barely got a week of reprieve when high winds blew the dormant megafire back into full gear, forcing evacuations and threatening structures in the enclave east of Gold Beach.
The fire had been fully contained at the beginning of the month after a rain storm moved through the area, but increasingly high temperatures and winds reaching more than 30 miles an hour reignited it.
About 10 spot fires at the northwest end of the Klondike burn scar broached containment lines late Sunday evening and prompted mandatory Level 3 evacuation orders for residents south of the Rogue River. Those north of the river are under Level 2 — Get Ready — orders as of 7 p.m. Sunday, according to Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Jeremy Dumire.
The fire is within 4 miles of the tiny hamlet.
“This is by far the worst smoke I’ve ever seen,” said Gene Clasen, who lives about 3 miles up Jerry’s Flat Road on the south bank of Rogue River. He was awake at about 4 a.m. Monday when he heard vehicles going down the road.
“That’s about the time start we hearing logging trucks go down the road, and I heard them and thought, ‘Yup; right on time,’” he said. “But right behind it was another truck and another truck and another one. And it wasn’t logging trucks, it was fire trucks — racing up Jerry’s Flat. This one ain’t over.”
No rain is predicted for the week, and high temperatures in the area are predicted to be in the 70- to 80-degree range for the next 10 days.
This month’s work
The fire was one of more than 60 sparked July 15 in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest; by late September, it had spread to more than 167,000 acres. Sunday, ash was reported to be falling in Port Orford.
At the height of the megafire — described as any wildfire more than 100,000 acres in size — more than 1,500 firefighters, with backup from helicopters, backhoes and other heavy equipment, were on scene. When the fire kicked back up Sunday, a mere 300 workers were in the woods, looking for hot spots and repairing damage done by their summer-long efforts.
A Burned Area Emergency Team, which evaluates damage fires have done to the woods, had already started their work.
The U.S. Forest Service’s inciweb site on Saturday noted that the weather might change.
“Personnel working on the east side of the Klondike Fire today are advised to watch for potentially strong east/northeast winds as a dry cold front moves through the region,” the site reads. “This dry air mass may also cause unburned vegetation within the Klondike Fire to ignite from holdover fires smoldering within the fire lines. Crews and engines are available to take appropriate actions on fresh ignitions to ensure fire does not cross existing containment lines.”
But the fire did exactly that.
Gov. Kate Brown declared the Klondike Fire a “conflagration,” which allows the state fire marshal to gather crews and equipment to fight the fire. Crews from Lane, Linn, Benton and Marion counties were anticipated to arrive on scene Monday afternoon.
As in past incidents, ranchers farther from the fire offered pasture, shelter and the use of trailers for livestock for those affected by the fire and smoke.
The Red Cross has established an information center at the First Baptist Church at 29755 Turner St. in Gold Beach. The agency can also be reached by calling 888-680-1455.
A red flag warning is also out for all of Northern California, from Ukiah northeast to Weaverville and north to the Oregon-California border.