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Two bodies found in Slater fire burn area

Officials said Thursday that two fatalities have been confirmed in the burn area of the Slater fire.

The Slater fire was estimated at 120,000 acres Thursday morning and is burning in Northern California and southern Josephine County in Oregon. The wind-driven fire is 0% contained, according to fire officials.

Two deceased people have been found in the burn area near Happy Camp, California, officials said.

Officials reported the first death Thursday during the day and the second death Thursday night.

The positive identification of the two people is pending further investigation. Once identifications have been made, the next-of-kin will be notified and the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office will release updated information, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday night.

The Slater fire started near Slater Butte Fire Lookout on the Klamath National Forest earlier this week.

The fire has destroyed an estimated 150 homes in the Happy Camp area.

An evacuation order was issued for the town of Happy Camp and surrounding communities, as well as various roads along Highway 96 between Clear Creek and the O’Neil Creek Campground. Highway 96 is closed from Fort Goff on the northeast side of Happy Camp to Clear Creek on the southwest side, officials said Wednesday night.

Due to the danger from wildfires raging across California, the U.S. Forest Service closed all national forests in the state beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing across the state is historic,” said Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. “These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that national forest visitors can recreate safely. I ask all Californians and visitors to take these closures and evacuations seriously for their own safety and to allow our firefighters to focus on the mission of safely suppressing the fires.”

Forest Service officials said they will reevaluate the closures daily.

The Slater fire is burning in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon and the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests in California. Highway 199 is closed on the California side of the border, stretching north toward Cave Junction in Oregon.

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve has closed due to fire danger. Cave tours have been suspended this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but surface features like hiking trails had been open.

For updated information on the Slater fire, see inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7173/.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

The Slater fire in Northern California and southern Josephine County grew to 120,000 acres by Thursday morning. Photo courtesy California Highway Patrol