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Some Level 3 evacuations lifted on Highway 199 near the Slater Fire

Fire and law enforcement officials have decided to reduce one of the Level 3 evacuation areas near the Slater Fire to a Level 2, allowing some people to return home.

Posted: Sep 8, 2020 9:21 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2020 4:14 PM

HAPPY CAMP, Calif. —

UPDATE: Fire and law enforcement officials have decided to reduce one of the Level 3 evacuation areas near the Slater Fire to a Level 2, allowing some people to return home.

The reduced area is along Highway 199 from Gene Brown Road to 37265 Redwood Highway. This includes Gene Brown Rd, Arrowhead Dr, and Leuizenger Ck/NF-9938 Rd. Addresses greater than 37265 Redwood Hwy will remain in a Level 3 “GO” evacuation status.

"This decision is based on current forecasted weather models and successful firefighting operations," the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said. "As a reminder, if weather and/or fire behavior changes in the future the evacuation level could be elevated again to Level 3 'GO.'"

The Slater Fire is currently estimated at 143,092 acres with 10 percent containment. An estimated 150 structures have been lost, all on the California side near Happy Camp.

(Updated 9/18/20 at 4 p.m.)

UPDATE: Tuesday was a positive day for firefighters working on the massive Slater Fire, according to the latest from officials. No structures have been lost on the Oregon side of the fire, and recovery efforts are underway in the Happy Camp area.

The oppressive smoke inversion held over the fire area, keeping fire activity to a minimum. Fire officials described some "backing and flanking" behavior on the fire, but no aggressive pushes. Firefighters worked to both directly contain the fire as it currently stands, and establish contingency lines.

"Today crews will be holding the fire along the road system on the west side of the fire near the state line," officials said. "In the Takilma area, dozers will continue to put in line and work direct on the north side of the fire."

Meanwhile, more and more resources are arriving to the firefight, with a new Incident Management Team in place on Wednesday, and more task forces from the state Fire Marshal's Office arriving over the next day or two.

The Slater Fire did grow to the east, toward the smaller Devil Fire, fire officials said. Crews are still working to secure the Pacific Crest Trail as a line to protect the town of Seiad from growth on the Devil Fire.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office issued new evacuation orders and warnings around the town of Callahan to the south after a new fire started. The Fox Fire was last estimated at 761 acres.

(Updated 9/16/20 at 11:20 a.m.)

UPDATE: The Josephine County Sheriff's Office has requested assistance from the Oregon National Guard to aid with efforts on the Slater Fire in the Illinois Valley. The agency said that the help will be used for traffic control on evacuation areas.

Beginning Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office said, the National Guard will start manning traffic control points on roads entering into Level 3 areas and some Level 2 sections. Those points will help keep any unauthorized traffic out, freeing up fire and law enforcement personnel.

Residents staying in the evacuation areas will have to travel with photo identification that lists their residency, or show documents that otherwise prove residency.

"We would ask that you use the traffic control point closest to your residence, i.e. if you live on Dick George Rd then please use the Dick George Rd traffic control point," the Sheriff's Office said. "If you live in the Level 3 evacuation area and request help from a friend in moving livestock or property out of the evacuation area, you will need to personally meet your friend at the traffic control point to assist them in getting through. Those who are coming to assist will also need to provide photo identification."

"We would like to thank the residents of the Illinois Valley for their understanding during this difficult and uncertain event. We would also like to thank the members of the Oregon National Guard who have left their families and jobs to come and assist their neighbors here in Southern Oregon," the agency concluded.

The Slater Fire was last estimated at 131,601 acres with 10 percent containment, and the nearby Devil Fire was 4,429 acres with no containment. Fire officials anticipated rising activity on the fire as smoke lifts and winds rise.

(Updated 9/15/20 at 3:40 p.m.)

UPDATE: More evacuation orders have been issued in the Illinois Valley area on Monday due to the encroaching Slater Fire.

According to Josephine County Emergency Management, a Level 3 "GO" order has been issued for all homes on Wood Creek Road and Shepherd Hill Road — just east of O'Brien in the Illinois Valley.

Some areas around O'Brien and Takilma were already on Level 3, but Monday's order effectively fills in much of the inhabited space between the two communities.

Fire officials have yet to report any damaged or destroyed structures in Josephine County, though fire lines have gotten very close to Takilma, growing to the east of that community and stretching north toward Holland.

(Updated 9/14/20 at 5:52 p.m.)

UPDATE: Though a smoke inversion continues to limit fire activity on the Slater Fire, fire officials say that it was more active in Oregon on Sunday where the inversion lifted partially.

Officials said that the fire caused some spotting on both the north and south edges overnight. Firefighters were able to protect structures and utilities in the Cedar Creek, Dwight Creek, and Elk Creek areas, and no structures were damaged or destroyed overnight.

"The fire burned with less intensity around the Holland Loop area, so emphasis shifted to strengthening indirect firelines to increase community protection," officials said.

Crews have been mopping up around lines along the fire's eastern edge and south to Highway 96. Flames near Highway 96 between Happy Camp and Seiad caused some rocks to roll onto the road, and firefighters are working to secure lines west from China Point toward Happy Camp.

"Work to defend constructed fire lines around structures at Thompson Creek is ongoing as the Slater Fire approaches that neighborhood from the west and the Devil Fire burns to the northeast," officials said.

The Slater Fire is currently estimated at 131,601 acres between Oregon and California with 5 percent containment. The smaller Devil Fire to the east is estimated at 4,429 acres with no containment.

Fire crews are hiking in toward the remote Devil Fire, searching for places to contain it along the Pacific Crest Trail to keep it west of Seiad Creek and away from the Applegate River. Crews have also been prepping a Forest Service Road used in 2017 to hem in the Miller Complex.

"With increased humidity, the Miller Complex Fire scar should slow or stop fire spread towards the Applegate Valley," officials said.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office on Monday reduced evacuation orders for much of Happy Camp, keeping a warning in place. Residents are being allowed to return to their homes.

Indian Creek Road north of Davis Road, Buckhorn Road north of 620 Buckhorn, Fowler Road, and Jacobs Way all remain closed. Piloted traffic control is in effect along Highway 96 between Savage Rapids and Cade Mountain.

(Updated 9/14/20 at 11:45 p.m.)

UPDATE: The Slater fire is currently 137,000 acres. There is significant damage in the Happy Camp area but no confirmed loss of residential structures.

Here are the latest evacuation levels:

  • Level 3 "Go": Redwood Highway from Brown Road in O’Brien South to the California border including any side roads from Redwood Highway, Dick George Road including all roads connecting to Dick George Road, from the Intersection of Holland Loop, Takilma Road to the 6000 block of Holland Loop, all of Takilma, all areas within the Oregon Caves National Park and the Tartar Gulch area.
  • Level 2 "Be Set": All areas South of the Kerby city limits from Hanby Lane South to the 37000 block of Redwood Highway and Caves Hwy East of Holland Loop to the Oregon Caves
  • Level 1 "Be Ready": Everything from Hayes Hill South to Cave Junction.

(Updated 9/12/20 @ 5:31 p.m.)

UPDATE: The Slater Fire is now estimated at 140,000 acres between Oregon and California, according to a Friday night update from fire officials.

Firefighters are reportedly making good progress on the Oregon side, diverting the fire away from Cave Junction and Kerby and protecting private lands.

"Although firefighters are making progress, the fire activity could increase as the weather changes today," officials said,

Evacuation levels changed gradually by Friday night — reflecting the fire's growth to the northeast of Takilma and the threat to areas even beyond Cave Junction.

  • Level 3 “Go”: Redwood Highway from Brown Road in O’Brien South to the California border including any side roads from Redwood Highway, Dick George Road including all roads connecting to Dick George Road, from the Intersection of Holland Loop, Takilma Road to the 6000 block of Holland Loop, all of Takilma and all areas within the Oregon Caves National Park.
  • Level 2 “Be Set”: All areas South of the Kerby city limits from Hanby Lane South to the 37000 block of Redwood Highway and Caves Hwy East of Holland Loop to the Oregon Caves
  • Level 1 “Be Ready”: Everything from Hayes Hill South to the Kerby city limits.

The Josephine County Fairgrounds at 1451 Fairgrounds Road in Grants Pass is still a temporary evacuation point. Officials said that the Sheriff's Office is working with firefighters to continually asses the fire's growth and the potential need for more evacuations.

"We ask that citizens who have been evacuated stay away from the area to allow fire crews to focus on monitoring the fire," the Sheriff's Office said. "Additionally, due to the heavy smoke the visibility on the roads is low. Please be cautious while driving in the smoke and use your headlights."

(Updated 9/11/20 at 7:30 p.m.)

UPDATE: A Level 3 evacuation order has been issued for the Tarter Gulch area to the northeast of Takilma as the Slater Fire continues to push north into Josephine County.

"Due to fire behavior moving closer to the only evacuation route, residents in the area have been advised to leave now," Josephine County Emergency Management said.

(Updated 9/11/20 at 4:30 p.m.)

UPDATE: Fire officials say that the Slater Fire did not claim any more structures on Thursday, as firefighters continue to work at mopping up around Happy Camp and building line in Josephine County.

"Today, firefighting forces on the Slater Fire are focused on protection of buildings and utilities, development of a perimeter containment strategy, and supporting local fire units in initial attack on both sides of the state line as needed," officials said.

In the Happy Camp areas, firefighters are working on damage assessments and protecting homes that were spared by the fire. The area remains under a mandatory evacuation, with power crews working to fix downed lines.

"There is no active fire edge along Highway 96 at this point," officials continued. "Firefighters are scouting opportunities to keep the fire from reaching the highway. To do that, firefighters plan to build a fireline up to Cade Mountain and directly along the current fire perimeter. Meanwhile, in Gasquet and surrounding towns, crews stayed focused on protecting and mopping up around structures."

Firefighters have also made "good progress" in diverting the Slater Fire away from Highway 199 and homes in in the Illinois Valley. Dozers have created nearly 20 miles of fire line to protect property from O'Brien to Holland.

The Slater Fire and the Devil Fire to the east are still considered completely uncountained. The Slater Fire is estimated at 136,310 acres, and the Devil Fire is 4,488 acres — the latter unstaffed by fire crews.

(Updated 9/11/20 at 11 a.m.)

UPDATE: The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has confirmed a second fatality from the Slater Fire, again in burned areas near Happy Camp.

"The positive identification of the deceased person is pending further investigation," the agency said. "Once positive identification is obtained, and the next-of-kin is notified, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office will release updated information."

Evacuations on the northern edge of the fire — in Josephine County — have stayed steady on Thursday, with Takilma and parts of O'Brien on Level 3, and all of the Illinois Valley to just north of Cave Junction on Level 2.

In Siskiyou county, the entire Highway 96 corridor between Clear Creek and O'Neil Campground and everything north to the Oregon border remains on an evacuation order. The area along Highway 96 and north to the Oregon Border between O'Neil Creek Campground and the mouth of the Scott River is on an evacuation warning.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office said that it is now assessing the damage around Happy Camp. Fire officials say that they are mopping up in this area, while looking to line the southeastern flank of the fire.

On the Oregon side, rough terrain has hampered any direct suppression or construction of fire lines so fire. Fire officials said that they are still scouting the area to determine where they can dig in against the Slater Fire's growth northward.

(Updated 9/10/20 at 7 p.m.)

UPDATE: The Slater Fire has grown to an estimated 120,000 acres with no containment as of Thursday morning, according to the latest from fire officials. It continues to threaten homes in the areas of Happy Camp, California and north into Oregon, toward the Illinois Valley.

Evacuation levels remained largely unchanged from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning. The community of Takilma and parts of O'Brien in Josephine County remain on Level 3, and Cave Junction remains on Level 2. Areas around Happy Camp in Siskiyou County — stretching along Highway 96 from Clear Creek to the O'Neil Creek Campground — also remain on Level 3.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Wednesday night that one person has died near Happy Camp, and roughly 150 homes were lost.

"On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, one fatality was confirmed in the burn area near Happy Camp, California," the agency said. "The positive identification of the deceased person is pending further investigation. Once positive identification is obtained, and the next-of-kin is notified, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office will release updated information."

The latest fire maps show the fire pushing due north, to the east of Takilma. It has also surged to the west, reaching Highway 199 — and crossing it in areas — around the border between Oregon and California.

The fire continues to move in around Happy Camp and the surrounding areas, but firefighters continue their efforts to save homes.

(Updated 9/10/20 at 9:30 a.m.)

UPDATE: A new Level 3 "GO" evacuation order is in place for Brown Road in O'Brien and all areas south to the California border, according to Josephine County Emergency Management.

Illinois Valley Fire posted around the same time on Wednesday, saying that the Slater Fire crossed into Oregon on Tuesday night and jumped Highway 199 near the bug station in California.

(Updated 9/9/20 at 6:30 p.m.)

UPDATE: Evacuations from the Slater Fire have spread toward areas of Josephine County as the Slater Fire grows to the north.

According to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office, all residents from four corners through Happy Camp Road and four corners through Takilma Road are being placed on a Level 3 “Go” Evacuation.

"This means you must leave now, you do not have time to gather belongings or protect your home. The Josephine County Fairgrounds is a temporary evacuation point," the agency said.

Residents of O’Brien are set at a Level 2 “Be Set” Evacuation. A later update indicated that areas south of Kerby city limits from Hanby Lane south to the 37000-block of Redwood Highway are also on Level 2. This covers the city of Cave Junction.

A Level 2 “Be Set” means that you must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. This level indicates there is significant danger to your area, and residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter outside of the affected area, or if choosing to remain, be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

Highway 199 has been closed just south of Cave Junction near the Illinois Valley Airport to the California Border, according to ODOT.

(Updated 9/9/20 at 9 a.m.)

UPDATE: The Slater Fire near Happy Camp in Siskiyou County is now up to 22,000 acres. According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office, the current shelter location is the Seiad Fire Department. The overnight shelter location is the Karuk Tribal Wellness Center. The fire information line can be reached at (530)-356-9434.

INITIAL REPORT: The entire community of Happy Camp in Siskiyou County is now under a mandatory evacuation order as a wildfire continues to spread on the northwest side of the town.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office said just before 1 p.m. that the order covers the city limits to Highway 96 at Lower Airport Road. This includes China Grade to Elk Creek. Residents are told to "evacuate immediately."

The Sheriff's Office said that the fire began near the Slater Butte lookout. Fire officials last estimated the fire's size at more than 150 acres, growing to the northeast toward Indian Creek.

Cal Fire said that it is assisting the Klamath National Forest and local firefighters in responding to the fire. The evacuations were requested by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Josephine County Sheriff's Office announced on Tuesday afternoon that it has responded to the area to assist with evacuation notifications as the fire increasingly threatens homes.

"There are residences that are unable to be reached by Siskiyou County personnel due to the fire," the agency said. "As a result, Josephine County Search and Rescue personnel have been dispatched to Happy Camp, CA to conduct evacuation notifications that Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office personnel cannot reach."

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.

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