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UPDATE: Valley should be spared of smoke

UPDATE, 11:39 A.M.:Prevailing winds should carry most of the smoke from the Klamathon Fire to the east and away from the valley, according to the National Weather Service in Medford.

“Air quality has been good here and moderate in Yreka,” Meteorologist Mike Petrucelli said.

On Thursday, when the fire erupted in Hornbrook, some smoke wafted into the valley, but the area should see winds coming out of the west this afternoon, he said, carrying the smoke off to east and south.

UPDATE, 11:22 A.M.:The Klamathon Fire is burning within a half-mile of the Oregon border, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Suzi Brady, spokesman for Cal Fire, said, “We’re hoping it does not jump the border.”

Dozers are cutting five-foot wide fire lines and hand crews are cutting through vegetation in an attempt to prevent the fire from burning north.

“It’s very difficult terrain in all of Siskiyou County,” Brady said. “There’s always a possibility that a fire could make runs on us.”

Air tankers have been dropping retardant, which slows the fire down and allows crews to cut lines, Brady said.

“We’re trying hard to stop it,” she said.

The fire has burned 8,000 acres and is only 5-percent contained, Brady said.

One of the priorities is to prevent more structures from being destroyed, she said. Twelve structures have already been burned.

So far, 400 people have been evacuated, Brady said. Shelters have been set up at the Ashland High School and Jackson Street Elementary in Yreka.

UPDATE, 10:21 A.M.:The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a person was found dead in the area around Hornbrook where an evacuation notice was declared yesterday.

“We don’t know right now any information about the person,” said Siskiyou sheriff Lt. Jeremiah LaRue.

The evacuation notice is in effect from Hornbrook to Hilt, including the AllStar Liquor Express on Hilt Road just to the west of Interstate 5, LaRue said.

“Everything is pretty much evacuated from Hornbrook north to Hilt,” he said.

The fire is burning northward to Hilt and the Oregon border into dense, wooded areas that are difficult to access, LaRue said.

Some 12 structures have burned, including some residences, he said.

Winds are expected to pick up this afternoon, increasing the fire danger, LaRue said.

UPDATE, 10:21 A.M.: According to the Record Searchlight in Redding, at least 12 structures have been destroyed in the Klamathon Fire.

UPDATE, 10:09 A.M.:A resident near the Klamathon Fire that has torched 8,000 acres near Hornbrook, California, said the flames have advanced near the town of Hilt, the last stop before the Oregon border.

“Looking to the northwest, it’s burning pretty good near Hilt, close to the liquor store on both sides of the freeway,” said Richard Pfiffner, who lives along the Klamath River about seven miles east of Interstate 5. “I guess it missed Hornbrook.”

The 70-year-old owner of Craggy Aero,an aircraft supply company, said he had a good view of the fire last night from his deck as aerial bombers attempted to slow the blaze down.

“There was a whole ridge of flames two thirds of the way down Cottonwood Mountain,” Pfiffner said.

He said friends on Mount Ashland Road helped protect horses last night at the R Ranch on the west side of Interstate 5 and north of Hornbrook.

Pfiffner said aerial bombers have been flying overhead most of the morning, and strong winds from the south are expected this afternoon.

UPDATE, 9:28 A.M.:California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office have confirmed a civilian fatality. Identification of the deceased is pending further investigation and notification to the next of kin.

UPDATE, 8:56 A.M.: Interstate 5 from Ashland to Yreka is open without escorts both northbound and southbound.

Expect heavy and slow moving traffic in the area previously closed due to the Klamathon fire, Oregon Department of Transportation officials warn.

7 a.m.: The Klamathon fire burning south of Hornbrook has reached 8,000 acres and is 5 percent contained, according to CalFire.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials said its crews and Oregon State Police will escort several hundred vehicles through the burn zone southbound from milepost 11 south of Ashland, and CalTrans and CHP will do the same northbound from Yreka. "Expect major delays and congestion," a release said.

"Depending on Klamathon fire behavior throughout the day, conditions could change."

The fire started shortly after noon Thursday and is burning off Klamathon Road and Copco Road south of Hornbrook in Siskiyou County. Evacuations are in progress for the town of Hornbrook, north of Copco Road. An evacuation order is in effect for Klamathon Road, all Hornbrook City and all the way to and including Hilt and Colestin Valley.

Evacuation shelters are open at the Jackson Street School in Yreka and at Ashland High School. A shelter for large animals has been established at Siskiyou Fairgrounds.

Photo courtesy California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Photo courtesy California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection