S. Oregon Evacuations Expand as Smith River Complex Burns Uncontrollably

In a race against time and nature, the Smith River Complex Fire has grown to a staggering 40,000 acres with zero percent containment. The firefighting efforts are relentless, with over 1150 personnel currently on scene, and more reinforcements expected to join the fight in the coming days.

The situation took a turn for the worse as strong northeast winds swept through the fire area overnight. However, a small silver lining emerged as an inversion settled in, momentarily dampening the fire’s behavior on most parts of the complex yesterday morning.

The battle on the ground intensified as the Kelly fire aligned with Stony Creek and Craigs Creek, pushing southwestward and expanding approximately 2.5 miles during the early morning hours. The west side of the Kelly fire managed to breach the boundaries, venturing into the untouched North Fork Smith Roadless Area.

Weather conditions today are expected to remain cooler, allowing firefighters to focus their efforts on fortifying structures along the vulnerable highway 199 corridor. However, as the remnants of Hurricane Hillary finally exit the area, a gradual warming trend is expected to take hold over the next few days, adding more challenges to the already taxing firefighting efforts.

Amidst the fight, fire suppression efforts in the northern section of the Smith River Complex are showing some signs of progress. Dozer lines are being painstakingly constructed from Monkey Creek Ridge to Highway 199, while the Northwest Incident Management Team 13 is collaborating closely with local fire departments to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect homes in the event of a significant fire surge towards residential areas.

In the Dwight Creek area, firefighters are hard at work conducting structure assessments to gauge the potential impact of the advancing fire. Meanwhile, over in Elk Creek, the focus is on thorough structure preparation, hoping to mitigate the potential destruction. However, the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around the Smith River Complex has been expanded northward into Oregon, as a safety measure to prevent interference with aerial firefighting resources.

The toll of the fire is being felt beyond the immediate blaze. U.S. Highway 199 has been completely shut down in Del Norte County from Slant Bridge Road to Oregon Mountain Road (PM 16 to 31), effectively halting traffic due to the encroaching fires. A stringent closure is in effect on U.S. 199 at the Agriculture Station near the Oregon border.

For those displaced by evacuations, the American Red Cross has stepped in to provide assistance. A shelter has been established at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, where disaster workers are collaborating with local officials to ensure evacuees receive essential necessities like food, water, and shelter.

Here is the latest (8/22/23 at 3:30p) evacuation information for both Northern California and Southern Oregon:

Level 3 “Go Now” Evacuations

From Slant Bridge to the Oregon Border, including Gasquet, Patrick Creek, Little Jones Creek, Copper Creek Drainage, Coon Creek/16n19 17n07, Washington Flat, Pioneer Rd, Panther Flat Campground area, Sun Star Community, French Hill Road, and all other communities between Pioneer Road to the Oregon border.

Level 2 “Be Set” Evacuations –

High Divide, Rowdy Creek, Rock Creek & Big Flat. Zones – JCU-814 & JCU-523

Level 1 “Be Ready” Evacuations –

Low Divide, Hiouchi from Slant Bridge to the east end of North Bank Road. Zones- JCU-813-A & JCU-522

You can track this fire through our 2023 Wildfire Season partner’s Wildfire Aware app.

Source: USFS

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