Multiple ignition points, but arson is not certain
Hundreds of firefighters from across the country spent the weekend containing a wildfire that broke out near Happy Camp on Friday afternoon.
The 318-acre Dillon Fire, 15 miles southwest of Happy Camp near Dillon Creek in Siskiyou County, was expected to be completely contained some time today and had been 90 percent contained Monday evening.
The fire spread quickly from about 125 acres on Friday to 230 acres Saturday during extreme weather conditions. The 107-degree weather Saturday caused two firefighters to have heat-related injuries (heat stroke and heat exhaustion).
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Forest Service officials said it was definitely caused by humans.
It coalesced from a series of about 20 roadside fires along a 20-mile stretch of state Highway 96, but it may not have been intentionally set.
“It could have been a boat trailer dragging a brake or a car shooting out worn-out pieces of a catalytic converter, but it’s still fairly obvious that it was from a vehicle moving down the highway,” said Kerry Greene, spokeswoman for Klamath National Forest.
Highway 96 was closed Friday and Saturday and remains limited to one-way controlled traffic due to the fire as debris continued to fall on the road. The Dillon Creek Campground was evacuated Friday and is currently closed.
There were 293 firefighters spread among 10 hand crews still fighting the fire Monday night.
There were still 359 firefighters, 17 fire engines, one helicopter, eight water tenders and two bulldozers dedicated to the fire Monday morning. On Saturday, the Dillon fire required five helicopters and an air attack plane.
Firefighters started some backfires to burn off fuels in between the active fire edge and the fire line.
“The fire behavior was moderate, but the terrain is extreme,” Greene said. “It’s some of the hardest terrain in California.”
Firefighters often have to carry heavy water hoses up and down steep mountainsides.
“It’s hard to walk even without the gear,” Greene said.
Fire restrictions for the Klamath and Six Rivers national forests were implemented Monday. Fires will only be allowed within developed recreation sites and designated fire safe sites. Contact the Forest Service for details.
“Thus far during the 2012 fire season we have been very successful in wildland fire initial attack,” said Deputy Forest Fire Chief Mike Beasley. “We are one of the last forests in the state to enter fire restrictions, but this important step will assist firefighters with continued initial attack success.”
Dry lightning accompanied by high winds and dry air started at least five fires in the region Sunday, demanding some fire resources that had been committed to the Dillon Fire. One fire in the Red Buttes Wilderness in Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest required fire crews to hike four hours before reaching the fire.
Klamath National Forest took advantage of the crews in the area to fight the smaller fires that broke out.
“We’re keeping some here on the Klamath to help us out,” Greene said.