Former Oregon Sen. Jason Atkinson’s family lodge in Siskiyou County remains under threat from the Happy Camp Complex,which has burned more than 66,000 acres and sent smoke into the Rogue Valley.
“It has been in our family for 90 years, and we’re doing everything we can to protect it,” said Perry Atkinson, president of theDove TV/Radio, who helped keep the flames at bay over the weekend alongside Jason, his son. “There’s no guarantee that it’s going to be saved.”
Perry Atkinson said he and his family cleared brush and helped secure the perimeter around the house as Erickson helicopters dipped their buckets into the Klamath River and doused the erratic flames.
At the mercy of the winds, Atkinson said he’s particularly concerned about the east and south sides of his 25-acre property.
“I think the threat is still around us,” he said.
The threat was on top of them over the weekend when the fire advanced toward their property. Fire crews positioned themselves near Atkinson’s lodge while three helicopters dumped water on the hot spots, he said.
In 2008, the family lost a one-mile-long water line during a wildfire. Fire crews have been busy burying the line so it doesn’t get destroyed a second time.
Atkinson’s property is located behind roadblocks, about 25 miles east of Happy Camp.
He said he plans to head back down to his property in the next few days to help out if necessary to make sure the flames don’t get near the lodge.
The Happy Camp Complex has burned a total of 66,335 acres and is only 15 percent contained. More than 600 structures are threatened by the fire, though none have been lost, fire officials said. Up to 250 residents have been evacuated.
The fire was started by lightning on Aug. 11. So far, fighting the blaze in rugged countryside has cost $36 million and has required 2,737 personnel, 11 helicopters, 133 engines, 22 bulldozers, 28 water tenders, 29 mules and eight horses. Fire officials are hoping for containment by Sept. 20.
The National Weather Service has issued a warning that dry conditions and strong winds from the north to northeast of 10 to 20 mph today could fan the flames into treetops and cause unpredictable fire behavior.
Officials expect the fire to reach the communities of Hamburg and Scott Bar, where mandatory or advisory evacuation orders are in place. Residents remaining in those areas are encouraged to leave now, as firefighters and emergency vehicles will need clear access to homes. Residents who attempt to leave as the fire approaches might compromise emergency efforts and endanger civilians and firefighters, officials say.
Mandatory evacuation orders are in place along Scott River Road from Bridge Flat to the intersection of Highway 96, and for all areas south of Highway 96 between Scott River Road and Cade Summit. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department is patrolling 24 hours a day in evacuated areas.
Ken Sandusky, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service at the Klamath National Forest, said the recent cooler temperatures caused winds to shift toward homes.
He said hotter temperatures expected over the rest of the week will also bring a shift in winds that could make the fire take off, but in a direction away from homes.
“There is good and bad with both situations,” Sandusky said. “The winds are definitely a challenge.”
Fire crews have been busy strengthening the defensible space around structures, Sandusky said. “They’re preparing those residences as best as they can,” he said.
Sandusky said he wants people visiting the wilderness areas to be aware that their actions could cause a fire. He said people should be extra cautious.
“There are fires that can be avoided,” he said. “Our hands are full with these lightning fires.”
For more information on the fire, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4078.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.