Today marks the beginning of a significant drying trend in the ongoing Smith River Complex efforts, a development closely watched by firefighters who have been battling the blaze for weeks. As Sunday’s showers are predicted to be the last precipitation for an extended period of time, fire crews are making the most of the current rainy conditions to conduct critical work on containing the fire.
One significant achievement is the completion of preparations along the 445 Road, which has been designated as a firebreak to stop the fire’s northward spread. This newly established line connects with the already-contained portion of the fire near the 461 Road and extends to where three Hotshot crews are tirelessly digging lines around a section of the fire that had crossed the 4402 Road near its northwest “thumb.”
Sunday’s weather posed challenges to firefighting efforts as aerial operations were restricted for most of the day. For the third consecutive day, heavy rain, gusty winds, and lightning strikes forced a safety pause for some work on the fire lines. Firefighters had to relocate from exposed positions on ridges to safer locations during the worst periods of the storm.
In anticipation of the fire potentially pushing northwest, personnel and equipment are now establishing contingency lines along the 1107 Road, leading toward the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. These lines are designed to create a defensible barrier in case the fire’s advance takes an unfavorable turn. This crucial work is being coordinated in cooperation with resources from Smith River Complex South.
Meanwhile, efforts to mop up residual hot spots continue west of US199, south of Blue Creek, and near Monkey Creek Ridge. In this region, minimal smoke has been visible for several days, indicating progress in containment. Additionally, fire personnel have successfully completed work on fire lines extending east from US199, southeast to Little Sanger Peak.
In one particular safety operation, two large hazard trees near US199 that posed a risk of falling onto the road were safely brought down using explosives. This action was taken to prevent any potential impact on the highway one fully reopened.
On the structural front, resources have completed chipping and mastication operations, marking the final stages of their work in the Illinois Valley. These teams will now transition to patrolling the area to ensure that the fire remains under control.
Here are the current quick facts about this incident:
Total personnel: 2,642
Water Tenders: 28
Skid steers: 6
You can track this fire through our 2023 Wildfire Season partner’s Wildfire Aware app.