HAPPY CAMP, Calif. — An estimated 20 fires make up the Happy Camp Complex each of which is sending thick smoke into the sky and while the fires continue to be fought, the fire camp continues to grow.
Thick smoke in Happy Camp had Bonita Thom wearing a mask as she worked outside helping her sister sell Seminole tacos. She’s toughing it out for the day, but thinks children and seniors need to clear out of town, until the smoke does the same.
“They need to be taken out of here because the smoke is just too bad,” said Thom.
Lightning caused fires ranging from less than an acre to more than a thousand are burning around the town — an area known for wildfires.
“That’s the challenge of mobilizing forces to get out to each one of these fires, many of which you cannot get to by road, so they have to hike in to work on them,” said Fire Information Officer Jim Wilkins.
Crews are using existing roads to anchor some of their firelines. The thick smoke means air resources are not available. Adding to the challenge is steep terrain with a variety of fuels.
“New growth, old growth, previous fire areas, and a drought California hasn’t seen in 50 years,” said Wilkins.
Thom said she’s lived through enough wildfires to know the potential.
“I’m worried about that fire jumping that river right there. Because I know it did it before, and it can do it again,” said Thom.
While the smoke is bad now, she hopes it doesn’t escalate to levels she remembers from years ago.
“It was totally dark for 14 days here, a lot of people got so sick,” said Thom.
The number of fire crews fighting this complex will double between Thursday morning and Thursday night.