By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Gasquet residents were ordered to leave their homes last night and head for Crescent City when the Florence Fire was suddenly aroused and began marching toward the community.
Fueled by strong dry winds, the fire jumped the fire line north of Gasquet and hit the evacuation trigger point two miles north of Gasquet sending deputies from the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department door-to-door through the community to order the evacuation.
"The fire began moving south after picking up some smaller fuels," said Lyn Carranza of the U.S. Forest Service, a fire information official for the Florence Fire in California. "Because of the wind, some embers were landing on the trigger line and that's what the Sheriff's Department is acting on."
Captain Doug Plack said the blaze hit the trigger point at approximately 9:10 p.m.
"Sheriff (Jim) Maready said during the meetings in Gasquet that if the fire struck that trigger line we would notify the residents of the need to evacuate," Plack said. "They are being directed southbound on Highway 199 to the Crescent City area."
Although no structures were in immediate danger last night, at 10:30 p.m. Plack said the department decided to implement the evacuation as soon as possible before conditions worsened.
"The reason we are doing it tonight is because of the smoke and the nightfall," Plack said. "It's better to begin the process as early as possible rather than saying, Oh, let's wait and see, and then have to move people out at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. There is more communication available now and this way we can make sure it is an orderly process."
Plack said he hopes the department is not criticized for acting promptly, even if it is inconvenient for residents.
"People may think that we are being too cautious. I'm sorry, but we are thinking of what's best for the community and for the safety of the residents," said Plack.
Gasquet residents who were not directed by deputies last night should contact the Red Cross stationed at Crescent Elk School at 994 G Street in Crescent City if they need assistance.
The fire increased in size from 23,814 acres on Tuesday to 24,327 acres Wednesday, but until last night most of that increase was in the eastern sections.
Dixie Dies, information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said the winds were causing some problems with the firefighting efforts.
"We are experiencing an increase in fire activity in the southeast portion," Dies said yesterday afternoon. "At noon (Thursday) they were having a little trouble with the wind and difficulty flying helicopters because of it."