Tonight, the Smith River Complex, a raging wildfire that started in Northern California, has moved closer towards Josephine County, Oregon, raising concerns for area residents and officials alike. The fire’s aggressive advance has caused alarm as it engulfs the area, with the Kelly Fire section of the complex surging past Upper Coon Mountain’s towers (see video). This is especially significant as the “Wild Frontier” cameras, stationed on Upper Coon Mountain, are vital for monitoring fire conditions and assessing the situation.
The fire has devoured approximately 22,351 acres of brush and timber, leaving authorities struggling to contain it, with containment rates still at 0%. The inferno’s ferocity is jeopardizing a variety of structures, leading to evacuations being implemented to ensure the safety of residents. Furthermore, the high-power transmission lines, communication sites, critical wildlife habitats, and historical and cultural resources are also in jeopardy due to the fire’s spread.
In response to the escalating wildfire, Highway 199 has been closed, along with numerous county roads in the vicinity. The gravity of the situation prompted the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the County Office of Emergency Services and California Interagency Incident Management Team 15, to elevate the evacuation level for the entire stretch of French Hill Road to level 3. This decision was influenced by the combined impact of the fire’s extreme behavior and adverse weather conditions.
Across the state line in California, a comprehensive evacuation strategy is underway. The wildfire has necessitated a range of evacuation levels. Areas under Level 2 “Be Set” evacuations include High Divide, Rowdy Creek, and Gasquet from Pioneer Road to Slant Bridge. Those in Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuations are French Hill, Big Flat/Rock Creek, Low Divide, and Hiouchi from Slant Bridge to the eastern terminus of North Bank Road. Meanwhile, Level 3 “Go Now” evacuations extend to Patrick Creek, Little Jones Creek, Copper Creek Drainage, Coon Creek/16n19 17n07, Washington Flat, Pioneer Road, Panther Flat Campground Area, Sun Star Community, and all other communities positioned between Pioneer Road and the Oregon Border along Highway 199. Additionally, the entirety of French Hill Road is under evacuation orders.
In Oregon, a parallel evacuation strategy is being implemented. Zone JCU-814 and JCU-523 are under Level 2 “Be Set” evacuations, while Zone JCU-522 falls under Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuations.
As authorities work to curb the fire’s advancement and protect lives and resources, residents are urged to stay informed about the evolving situation and adhere to evacuation directives for their safety and the safety of their communities.
You can track this fire through our 2023 Wildfire Season partner’s Wildfire Aware app.