Evacuees return; fire 'looking good'

August 06, 2002 12:00 am
A reconnaissance flight leaves the Gasquet airport Saturday morning to check on the location and size of the fire burning nearby. Crews made good progress on containing the blaze over the weekend. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).
A reconnaissance flight leaves the Gasquet airport Saturday morning to check on the location and size of the fire burning nearby. Crews made good progress on containing the blaze over the weekend. (Stephen M. Corley/ The Daily Triplicate).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The Sour Biscuit Fire crept closer to Gasquet over the weekend but fire officials are saying there is no immediate danger.

"One little finger of the fire moved within a mile of the evacuation line. There are no fuels in front of it and no winds pushing it," said Commander Tony Luis of the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department. "We've got crews working on it. They bombarded the heck out of it (Sunday)."

U.S. Forest Service officials said the finger of fire is currently the primary focus of fire fighters battling the Sour-Biscuit blaze, which was 40 percent contained yesterday.

"That's one of the things we are concentrating on most," said Fire Information Officer David Eaker. "The western boundary is looking good. It's pretty much all contained, as is the eastern boundary."

Residents on Low Divide Road were allowed to return to their homes Saturday and were told to be ready for a one-hour evacuation notice should the fire begin moving westward again. The staff and 29 evacuated residents of the Bar-O Boy's Ranch juvenile detention center in Gasquet were also returned to their quarters Saturday.

At town meetings last week and last night, Gasquet residents were told they would be evacuated if the fire reached a trigger line 2.7 air miles north of Gasquet. Hiouchi residents were told they would be evacuated at the same time. The American Red Cross in Crescent City reported yesterday it will remain on standby until all evacuation threats have ended.

PacifiCorp Spokesperson Monte Mendenhall said power to Del Norte County has not been recently threatened by other blazes continuing to burn in Oregon, including the 234,000-acre Florence Fire.

"We're in pretty darn good shape," Mendenhall said. "They pulled vegetation with cats out of the transmission corridor so the fire couldn't burn too close."

Some county residents did lose power, however, because of damage to local lines.

"About a dozen or so customers have been without power because of the Shelley Creek Fire," Mendenhall said. "Several spans of poles were burned and wire was lost. We'll be replacing the poles and wire in the next day or two with the help of a helicopter. It's some really steep, rugged country in there."

The Shelley Creek Fire near Patrick Creek Lodge just above Highway 199 was 100 percent contained on Saturday. Crews continue to monitor and mop-up that fire, Eaker said.

The Sour-Biscuit Fire, which has consumed 24,039 acres in California, has cost the Forest Service $1.3 million to battle. The 850-acre Shelley Creek Fire, which threatened structures east of Gasquet and closed Highway 199, was fully contained during the weekend. That fire cost $2.5 million to fight.

Resources utilized for both fires include 1,360 personnel, 16 engines, nine helicopters and five dozers.

Eaker said a weather system moving into the area tonight may cause more problems for fire fighters later in the week.

"We're expecting off-shore winds and low humidity with it and it could start drying things out," Eaker said. "It's a little bit of a concern because it's the same kind of system that drove this fire into California."