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FireWatch: Crews in Siskiyou County work to capitalize on weekend rains

Though not the torrential downpour needed to truly alleviate drought conditions, rains in Siskiyou County over the weekend have given fire crews an opportunity to improve containment on multiple large wildfires.

Posted: Sep 20, 2021 11:08 AM

YREKA, Calif. — Though not the torrential downpour needed to truly alleviate drought conditions, rains in Siskiyou County over the weekend have given fire crews an opportunity to improve containment on the Antelope, McCash, and River Complex fires.

After a truly alarming run just over a week ago, the 145,600-acre Antelope Fire south of Dorris on the eastern side of Siskiyou County now has earned an increasingly optimistic outlook from fire officials, with the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office lifting all evacuation orders and warnings on Sunday. Containment of the fire is now estimated at 89 percent.

Fire crews have been able to remove the protective wrapping from a number of nearby buildings, including the Little Mount Hoffman Lookout and cabins at Little Medicine Lake. In many areas, crews are now hauling out equipment as they patrol and mop-up along fire lines.

"While fire activity remains minimal, some large piles in the Tamarack area are still holding heat, and firefighters are making sure that no embers from that smoldering material could escape the line," officials said Monday.

On the opposite end of Siskiyou County, officials on the nearly 195,800-acre River Complex fires sounded more cautious Monday morning in spite of the weekend precipitation.

"After the rain events on Saturday and Sunday morning, the weather is expected to be warmer over the next several days. This will cause fuels to dry out and fire activity to increase," officials said.

While the smallest of the River Complex fires, the Cronan Fire, has not seen growth for some time, the Haypress and Summer fires continue to pose a threat. Overall containment is estimated at 50 percent.

Crews continue to patrol the Cecilville and Summerville areas as they search for sources of heat, but visible smoke rose from areas south of the community of Callahan on Sunday. Crews there continue to mop up and reinforce containment lines. Fire officials said that areas of steep terrain near Craggy Peak contain pockets of unburned fuel, and crews are still looking for the best method of solidifying lines in the area.

"The Tango Blue spot fire showed little signs of growth yesterday and the rain allowed for crews to go direct assisted with aircraft support. The Limestone Ridge area will likely see more fire activity with projected weather; however, it is not anticipated to be an area of concern," officials said.

To the north of the River Complex, officials working on the 84,470-acre McCash Fire reported that the rain served as a mixed blessing — slowing fire growth for the time being, but also bogging down ground operations due to poor road conditions and stalling air operations due to cloud cover. Containment remains at 22 percent.

"As the weather clears, operations will increase," fire officials said Monday. "A high-pressure system coming in today will bring stronger winds, warming weather, and drying. Fire activity will likely begin to pick up over the next 48 hours."

Crews are focused on holding the fire at Titus Ridge and stop it from spreading north through the Elk Creek drainage. Meanwhile, other resources expect to continue spot-fire suppression, direct attack, and mop-up from Elk Creek west along the fire's edge and south along the Highway 96 corridor.

A structure protection group continues to assess and prepare structures within the Highway 93 and Salmon River corridor, and crews continue to scout and prepare for indirect line.

While evacuations have been lifted on the Antelope Fire, both orders and warnings remain in place around the McCash and River Complex fires for the time being. An interactive map of the evacuation areas can be accessed here.

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