By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Displaced evacuees were allowed to return home at noon today on Low Divide Road as fire fighters gain more control of the Sour-Biscuit Zone 2 Fire in the Smith River National Recreation Area.
The blaze, which got as close as 1.5 miles from homes in the Low Divide area this week, is now estimated to be 25 percent controlled, according to spokespersons of the U.S. Forest Service.
With the 100 percent containment of the Shelley Creek Fire burning near Gasquet and Patrick Creek, Highway 199 was opened last night at 7 p.m. and remains open today to one lane of traffic.
That highway has been closed for the last six days. Falling rock in "the narrows" portion of Highway 199 north of Patrick Creek are still creating hazardous conditions there.
Because many safety measures have been lifted, the staff and 29 evacuated residents of the Bar-O Boy's Ranch juvenile detention center in Gasquet were also returned to their quarters today.
The 29 juveniles have been lodged at the Del Norte County Juvenile Hall since last Sunday, July 28.
Weather is one factor helping efforts to gain control of the 21,745 acre zone 2 portion of the Sour-Biscuit fire.
A low-pressure trough moving south today, is bringing cooler air with more moisture and very calm winds of 3 to 12 miles per hour.
Also helping containment is the movement of crews from the now defeated Shelley Creek Fire to focus on Sour-Biscuit. There are 911 personnel assigned.
Four miles of fire line were completed around the southern end of the Sour Biscuit Fire as of noon today.
According to Terry Knupp, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service which is coordinating the firefighting efforts, very little fire growth occurred yesterday and moderate growth is expected today.
Though the control of the fire has lifted previous evacuation orders, the American Red Cross food and evacuation shelter at Crescent Elk Middle School on Ninth Street in Crescent City will remain open.
Red Cross coordinator Charlie Wick said the shelter will be staffed during the day, but will close at about 9 p.m. each evening, unless more evacuations are ordered.
The battle to subdue the Sour-Biscuit Zone 1 Fire on the Oregon side has not been as successful.
Burning 17 miles southwest of Cave Junction and connected to the Sour-Biscuit Zone 2 Fire it is at 12 percent containment. So far 18,337 acres have burned.
The Florence Fire, burning less than 2 miles away from the Sour-Biscuit complex is still only 5 percent contained and has burned 188,000 acres.
Portions of Cave Junction, Selma and Kerby are at risk from the Florence Fire.
For up-to-date information on the status of Highway 199, call 1-800-427-7623. For information about the local American Red Cross shelter, call 464-8380.