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Mighty Klondike slayed

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Oregon’s largest wildfire of 2018 is fully contained, but officials aren’t calling the fire out yet.

The Klondike fire, which started outside Selma and grew to more than 175,000 acres, was declared fully contained Wednesday, according to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The wildfire carried the risk of evacuations in the Illinois Valley and the community of Agness through November, according to Inciweb reports, but all lingering Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuations have been lifted, according to the Forest Service.

As of Friday, the Forest Service had not declared the Klondike fire completely out, though the agency says it’s confident any lingering fire won’t cross containment lines.

Forest Service public affairs officer Virginia Gibbons said there is still a risk of heat pockets, a “not uncommon” phenomenon in which fire travels inside old growth — sometimes into the roots and under ground.

“You can have fire under the soil,” Gibbons said. “The heat can hold in there and kind of rekindle when it starts to dry out again.”

The wildfire cost $104 million to suppress, according to the Forest Service. Battling the wildfire required 14 incident management teams — a third of the 42 teams that cycled through Southern Oregon during the 2018 fire season.

In August the Klondike fire merged with the Taylor fire, which was contained in October after burning approximately 53,000 acres, at one point threatening homes in Grants Pass.

The Klondike fire began in the middle of July about 9 miles northwest of Selma, threatening the communities of Selma, Oak Flat and Agness, and closing roads, public lands and recreational access to the Rogue River.

The Klondike fire burned in and near areas scorched by previous mega-fires, including last year’s Chetco Bar fire, the 2002 Biscuit fire and the 1987 Silver fire, in very steep and rugged terrain with limited road access.

The rugged terrain made it difficult for larger air tankers to effectively drop retardant, according to Gibbons.

“You can only fly it so low and expect it to get out,” Gibbons said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

$104 million later, the Klondike Fire is fully contained. Mail Tribune video / Nick MorganThumbnail
The Klondike Fire was the biggest in Southern Oregon this summer. Photo Courtesy of Klondike Fire Information