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Klamathon Fire Update Chronology

Containment has reached 70%, and the target date for full containment is Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Posted: Jul 9, 2018 3:45 PM
Updated: Jul 13, 2018 7:43 AM

YREKA, Calif. — UPDATE: CAL FIRE reports less fire activity on the northern flank of the fire. Crews were able to contain another 5% of Klamathon fire, raising containment to 80%, with full containment predicted for Sunday, July 15, 2018.

Crews will continue to strengthen fire lines. While some unburned areas within containment zones may burn, no fire growth is expected.

The size of the fire has not grown since Monday and is holding steady at 36,500 acres.

Yesterday afternoon, Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office indicated the injuries sustained by 72-year-old John Karl Bermel were consistent with a "fire-related death," investigators are still awaiting the results of a toxicology report to determine a definite cause of death of the Hornbrook resident.

(Updated as of 7:00 a.m. on Friday, July 13)

YREKA, Calif. — UPDATE: Fire crews saw minimal fire behavior overnight, and were able to contain 5% more of the fire. The Klamathon fire is now 70% contained, with full containment predicted for this Sunday, July 15, 2018.

The size of the fire has not grown since Monday, holding steady at 36,500 acres.

(Updated as of 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 12)

ASHLAND, Ore. — UPDATE: One man found dead in the aftermath of the Klamathon Fire has at last been identified, according to Siskiyou County Sheriff John Lopey.

CAL FIRE officials announced the fatality on Friday. Since then, Sheriff Lopey has said that the identify of the victim would not be revealed until next of kin had been notified.

At a press conference in Ashland Wednesday night, Sheriff Lopey revealed that the victim was 72-year-old John Karl Bermel of Pilot Road in Hornbrook. His body was found in or near the remains of his residence.

Sheriff Lopey also reported that re-population efforts were well underway in the area, with few incidents—one burglary call and an arrest for drug possession. Returning evacuees, some of them devastated by the loss of homes or pets, were bravely returning to the task at hand.

"Some people lost everything," said the Sheriff. Although the fire is considered completely contained near Hornbrook, firefighters and law enforcement personnel have stayed in the area to aid the returning residents, according to a CAL FIRE official.

Meanwhile, the evacuation shelter at Jackson Street Elementary in Yreka went from at least 162 people sheltering there during the height of the fire to just 11 on Wednesday.

Containment of the fire continued to see modest growth—now at 65%—with no growth of the fire itself to speak of, according to fire officials. The remaining firefight continues along the fire's northern edge, where it crosses about a mile into Oregon's deep, high wilderness near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Those officials indicated that as the fire nears total containment, Wednesday evening's meeting would likely be the last press conference and community meeting regarding the Klamathon fire.

(Updated as of 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11)

YREKA, Cal. — UPDATE: More than half of the Klamathon Fire is contained. Containment has reached 60% and has held at 36,500 acres. No new structures have been damaged or destroyed, and the number of threatened structures has dropped from 1,036 to 315 since the briefing 24 hours ago.

Yesterday afternoon, Hornbrook and Copco residents returned home.

(Updated as of 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11)

UPDATE: Residents of the Hornbrook and Copco communities will be allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday night, fire and law enforcement officials announced at a press conference in Yreka on Tuesday.

Hornbrook residents in particular will still face adversity, even if they have homes to which they can return. Water services have not yet been restored—and once they are restored, it may still be weeks before the water will be safe to drink. Bathing or consuming water in that area is considered highly unsafe.

In the meantime, safe drinking water will be provided to Hornbrook residents at the Chevron station, near the remnants of the southwest corner of town.

At the latest estimate, 34 houses in the Hornbrook area were destroyed by the Klamathon Fire. Many of those returning will be faced with the wreckage of their homes. Authorities say that those returning to those burned areas will need to wear protective clothing.

Electricity has been successfully restored to the entire area affected by the fire, according to Pacific Power.

Irongate Reservoir and the Copco area will remain under an evacuation warning, but residents are allowed to return. The Colestine Valley area has been reduced to a Level 1 (READY) evacuation advisory.

The Klamathon Fire's overall area remains at around 36,500 acres, now with 55 percent containment. There are still over 2,700 firefighters and support personnel employed in the firefight.

An excessive heat watch begins on Thursday, which fire officials are awaiting with caution.

(Updated as of 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10)

There is now a target date for full containment of the Klamathon Fire: July 15, 2018.

As of 7:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 10, 2018, CAL FIRE reports 36,500 acres burned, with containment at 45%, an increase of 5% since their briefing Monday evening, and fewer structures threatened.

While favorable humidity helped firefighters keep the fire from growing overnight, the communities of Hornbrook, and some areas around Copco Lake are still under evacuation orders.

No red flag warnings are forecast today.

At last night’s press conference, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey indicated that another fatality may have occurred, though that has still not been confirmed.

(Updated as of Tuesday, July 10 at 7:00 a.m.)

UPDATE: At the same Ashland news conference, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey indicated that there may have been another citizen death previously unaccounted for near Hornbrook.

When asked if the Sheriff's Office had been able to account for all individuals in the evacuated areas through search and rescue efforts, Lopey said the following:

"This morning we had to unfortunately take the cadaver dogs and go through the areas that were burned, and we did have a positive alert this morning—we may have another fatality. But we're trying to confirm that, the roof collapsed on a structure."

Previously, authorities have only reported one death from the Klamathon Fire—an apparent resident of Hornbrook, although that person has not been identified.

(Updated as of Monday, July 9 at 7:15 p.m.)

At a news conference on Monday night, CAL FIRE revealed that they will be reducing evacuation orders for several areas tonight, potentially allowing some people to return to their homes.

Specifics on those lowered evacuation orders are as follows:

- Klamath River Country Estates and the Irongate area South of the Klamath River are no longer on an evacuation order (reduced to evacuation warning).
- Hilt is no longer an evacuation order (reduced to evacuation warning)
- The Colestine Valley area is no longer on an evacuation order (Level 3: GO) and have been reduced to evacuation warnings (Level 2: SET).
- Mt. Ashland Ski Road has been reduced to an advisory (Level 1: READY).

The Klamathon Fire now covers 36,500 acres and is 40 percent contained, officials announced. Over 3,000 citizens have been evacuated in between the far-flung communities within reach of the flames.

So far, 34 homes have been confirmed destroyed and 5 more damaged.

There are currently 2,798 personnel (firefighters and support) engaged in efforts to deal with the fire's spread. Those efforts have cost about $32 million so far.

One Boeing 747, two DC-10s, four smaller air tankers, and 21 helicopters are employed in firefighting, with about 575,000 gallons dropped so far.

(Updated as of Monday, July 9 at 7:15 p.m.)

As of 7:00 a.m., Monday, July 9, 2018, CAL FIRE reports that another 250 acres burned since their last update, bringing the total to 35,250 acres. Containment increased to 30%.

The Bureau of Land Management has closed BLM lands southeast of Ashland to help ensure safety for the public and firefighters.

The emergency area and road closures have been expanded to include all Medford District lands south of Highway 66 and west of Copco Road. This includes Emigrant Creek Road, Baldy Creek Road, Soda Mountain Road, Pilot Rock Road, Mill Creek Road, the Lone Pilot Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 66 west to the boundary of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

The closure will remain in effect until the Klamathon Fire is declared controlled, or until the Medford District Manager determines conditions are safe for public use.

(Updated as of 7 a.m. on Monday, July 9)

UPDATE: As of 6:00 p.m. Sunday, July 8, 2018, the Klamathon fire has grown to 35,000 acres, with 25% containment. Hundreds of homes have been evacuated, affecting approximately 1,500 people. Approximately 800 structures are threatened, and 72 have been destroyed.

Fire crews made good progress today, though two areas are potential problem spots, according to Tim Chavez, a battalion chief with CAL FIRE.

One area west of Interstate 5 has been logged, leaving dry conditions due to an absence of tree cover; this area is prone to spot fires.
An area of the Siskiyou Wilderness has never burned “in recorded history,” Chavez said, noting that there is much underbrush and downed trees to fuel a fire, as well as steep terrain, making it a challenge for ground crews.

Crews established a line west of Hornbrook, up to Hilt, and Oregon crews have established four miles of line which they hope to tie-in with lines established in California.

The Klamath River is being used as a natural barrier, and crews are working to keep it from moving south of the river, mopping-up an area that had burned.

Brandon Feller, the firefighter burned on Thursday, has been released from UC Davis and is home recuperating from his injuries.
A warming trend is forecast for mid-week, with winds getting a bit stronger tomorrow.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said law enforcement's priorities are public safety and security to the evacuated areas. They are also monitoring seven traffic control points to ensure that roads are accessible for emergency crews.

Pacific Power is slowly restoring power to areas where it was lost.

(Updated as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 8)

The Klamathon Fire is now burning 30,500 acres in Northern California and Oregon. CAL FIRE says the fire is 25 percent contained.

CAL FIRE says the fire continues to burn moderately to the southeast and continues to spread into the Klamath National Forest. Crews say the fire is well-established in the Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area and private timber stands. CAL FIRE says the south flank of the fire is threatening the Osburger Cabin Cultural Site, as well as the Verizon communication site on Horn Peak.

Crews say the fire continues to threaten the communities of Hornbrook, CA, Hilt, CA, and Colestin, OR. Approximately 600 homes in these areas remain threatened. CAL FIRE the east flank is threatening two power plants at Iron Gate Reservoir and Copco Lake Reservoir. CAL FIRE says water systems for the communities of Yreka and Hornbrook are currently threatened. Endangered species habitats are threatened on the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and Soda Mountain Wilderness. The Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad, Inc. is currently threatened.

(Updated as of 7:17 a.m. on Sunday, July 8)

Fire crews had success on the western and northern edges of the Klamathon Fire on Saturday, CAL FIRE officials said at a press conference. However, on the eastern edge—near the Iron Gate Reservoir—flames pushed forward, cresting over hills and running down to the Copco Road along the Klamath River.

The fire now burns on 22,000 acres with 20 percent containment, according to the latest update from CAL FIRE.

Sheriff Jon Lopey said that military police units from the California National Guard will be moving into the area in order to aid the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) in evacuations, traffic control and security. Deputies and officers from the Redding area will also be moving in to help with those efforts.

At least 31 residences, one multi-family structure, three non-commercial buildings and 37 outbuildings have been confirmed destroyed by the fire, according to a CAL FIRE official. However, he admitted that only about 60 percent of damage assessment has been completed on the areas that were burned by the fire's passage.

The fire's acreage and level of containment did not receive any significant updates at Saturday evening's press conference.

(Updated as of 6:50 p.m. on Saturday, July 7)

New evacuation orders are being issued in California, based on a new statement from CAL FIRE.

Areas under immediate evacuation:

- Klamath River Community Estates, east of Black Mountain to Desavado Road, south of Copco Road to Ager-Beswick Road.

Areas with warnings for possible evacuation:

- Pheasant Valley area, east of Interstate 5, South of the Summit of Black Mountain, west of Ager and north of Yreka Ager Road.
- Airport Road area, southwest of York Road, west of Airport Road north of Shelly Road and east of Ager Road.
- Bogus Creek area, south of Ager Beswick Road, east of York Road and west of Bogus Creek.

Evacuees are still being told to head for Yreka. Evacuation centers are as follows:

Evacuation Center
Jackson Street Elementary School
405 Jackson Street, Yreka, CA 96097

Small Animals
Jackson Street Elementary School
405 Jackson Street, Yreka, CA 96097

Large Animals
Siskyou Golden Fairgrounds
1712 Fairlane Road, Yreka, CA 96097

(Updated as of 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 7)

CAL FIRE has confirmed that a firefighter received "significant" injuries from burns sustained on the first day of the Klamathon Fire. That firefighter was transported to a burn center, but no additional details are available at this time.

Weather conditions are more favorable today for firefighting efforts than they were previously, said Bill Murphy with CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 4. Winds that were blowing strongly to the north have since shifted, blowing the fire "back on itself."

The shift in winds is good news for Jackson County in Oregon—however, the fire does continue to spread to the southeast. From the Oregon-California border, flames are now reaching toward the Iron Gate Reservoir area in California, which was ordered to evacuate on Friday.

In a press conference on Friday evening, Sheriff Jon Lopey estimated that 40 structures had been destroyed by fire, particularly in the Hornbrook area. Since then, CAL FIRE has indicated that only 15 structures were destroyed. They later clarified that this number only reflects dwellings that have been absolutely confirmed destroyed.

There is still only one confirmed death related to the wildfire as it tore through areas of Hornbrook, but there have been no further details released as yet.

There are now roughly 1,000 firefighters dedicated to the Klamathon effort, as well as dozens of engines, aircraft and dozers.

(Updated as of 12 p.m. on Saturday, July 7)

The Klamathon Fire now covers 21,803 acres, according to the latest report from CAL FIRE. It is 5 percent contained. The large increase is primaily due to more accurate fire mapping.

CAL FIRE warns that the unpredictable fire has a high chance of spreading further into Jackson County, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and Klamath National Forest.

(Updated as of 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 7)

CAL FIRE has ordered further evacuations for the south and east edges of the Klamathon Fire. The following areas are being asked to evacuate:

- Iron Gate Estates; East of railroad tracks to Iron Gate Reservoir, and from the California state line south to Copco Road.
- Klamath River Estates; East of Black Mountain to Desavado Road south of Copco Road to Ager-Beswick Road.

(Updated as of 8:10 p.m. on Friday, July 6)

The Klamathon Fire now covers 9,600 acres and is only 5 percent contained, according to fire officials. Winds are beginning to change direction and come from the north again, potentially pushing the fire back south toward Hornbrook and the Klamath River.

At a press conference, officials from CAL FIRE, the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) and other area agencies described the current state of firefighting efforts. Hilt, Hornbrook and the Colestine Valley remain under threat, they said.

Evacuations have now expanded to the Irongate Reservoir near Copco in California as the fire expands to the east.

Evacuations are also being expanded slightly on the Oregon side—with a Level 3 (GO) evacuation order in effect for the following areas:

- Colestin Road
- Old Highway 99 from the California border to Mt. Ashland Ski Road

A Level 2 (BE SET) evacuation order is in effect for the following areas:

- Mt. Ashland Ski Road from the ski resort to Highway 99
- Highway 99 from Mt. Ashland Ski Road to the 6700-block

More information on evacuation levels and what they mean can be viewed on the Oregon Department of Forestry website here.

Sheriff Jon Lopey said that there were still more than 30 residents in Hornbrook who have remained in their residences—most of whom refused to leave and head to the shelter in Yreka again today when deputies visited them today.

Meanwhile, 40 structures are known to have been destroyed by the flames and five more damaged, the Sheriff reported. There is still only one known fatality, and that person still has not been identified. The cause of that person's death and the cause of the fire itself are still under investigation.

(Updated as of 6 p.m. on Friday, July 6)

Both the town of Hilt and areas of Hornbrook which were previously untouched may be under threat again today as the Klamathon Fire spreads over a series of ridgelines between the two towns.

According to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office (SCSO), fire and smoke can be also be seen rising on the southeast side of Pilot Rock, putting areas of the fire on the Oregon side of the border—just opposite the Colestin Valley and Mt. Ashland.

Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) spokesperson Melissa Cano said that the agency is standing ready to combat the fires to prevent them from spreading within Oregon.

Law enforcement officials on the ground near these communities say that they are prepared for the fire to move in any direction. While the wind currently appears to be pushing flames away from the unburnt homes in the area, deputies say that it could swiftly move in another direction.

CAL FIRE has confirmed at least one civilian fatality near the Hornbrook area. The identity of that victim has not yet been revealed.

Meanwhile, ODOT reports that I-5 has been completely reopened without escorts both north and southbound between Yreka and Ashland. They say to expect heavy, slow-moving traffic through the area that was previously closed due to the Klamathon Fire.

All exits between Ashland and Yreka will remain closed.

At the last estimate, the Klamathon Fire has covered over 8,000 acres and is now five percent contained. Evacuation orders remain in effect between the communities of Hornbrook and Hilt, so residents are not yet being allowed to return to the area until fire crews can guarantee their safety.

(Updated as of 9 a.m. on Friday, July 6)

CalFire is allowing I-5 to reopen to traffic this morning but expect major delays and congestion.

ODOT/OSP will meter and escort several hundred vehicles through the burn zone southbound from MP 11, south of Ashland. Caltrans/CHP will do the same NB from Yreka.

Depending on Klamathon Fire behavior throughout the day, conditions could change.

The Klamathon Fire is now burning 8,000 acres, 5% contained.

Caltrans District 2 officials are advising the traveling public, both commercial and private, that Interstate 5 near the California - Oregon border will remain CLOSED throughout the night due to the Klamathon Fire.

It is recommended that people limit travel if possible -perhaps staying in Redding or further south in Red Bluff or Corning until the road is clear.

Another suggestion, especially for commercial trucks on freight routes/schedules is to drive through Weed and SR97 without stopping. But please remember this route is already crowded and it is extremely important to drive slowly and fully aware of the potential excess in the number of vehicles transiting via SR 97.

Caltrans District 2 won't be able to provide another update until the morning, perhaps at 6 AM or 7 AM or 8 AM --depending on conditions.

(Updated as of 12:00 p.m. on Friday, July 6)

The Klamathon Fire now covers over 5,000 acres with many structures damaged, threatened or destroyed, according to CAL FIRE.

An evacuation order continues to be in effect between Hornbrook and Ager in the south and Hilt and Colestin Valley in the north.

(Updated as of 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 5)

A CAL FIRE spokesperson now says that the Klamathon Fire covers upwards of 1,000 acres as it continues to spread north and west toward Oregon.

Authorities worked quickly to evacuate residents of the small community of Hilt near the Oregon/California border. As of this update, evacuation efforts there are considered finished.

I-5 will remain close until further notice, with no estimated time to reopen, according to ODOT. Highway 273 (Old Siskiyou Hwy) is closed at Highway 66, and travel using Hwy 66 is not advised for trucks.

(Updated as of 6:20 p.m. on Thursday, July 5)

UPDATE: CAL FIRE has confirmed that the Klamathon Fire is now estimated to cover over 500 acres. Evacuations are now being ordered as far north as the communities of Hilt and Cole near the Oregon/California border.

Fire is being reported on both sides of I-5 now, having jumped the roadway.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has confirmed that I-5 southbound is closed at milepost 14 near Ashland.

CalTrans and California Highway Patrol (CHP) have requested that ODOT "stop all traffic coming into California" due to the Klamathon Fire and evacuations from Hornbrook. Southbound traffic is being advised to exit I-5 prior to Ashland exit 14.

Northbound traffic is still being stopped by CalTrans and CHP at the north Yreka exit, according to ODOT.

(Updated as of 4:40 p.m. on Thursday, July 5)

Interstate-5 has been completely closed to through-traffic near Hornbrook due to the fire's proximity to the interstate.

I-5 southbound is closed at exit 14 in Oregon (Ashland) and northbound at exit 786 in California (Yreka).

Travelers heading southbound into California are being given the option of turning around and heading back north on I-5 or taking Highway 97.

(Updated as of 3:50 p.m. on Thursday, July 5)

CAL FIRE has confirmed that the town of Hornbrook is now being evacuated. This includes all of Hornbrook City north of Copco Road. Witnesses say that the fire jumped the Klamath River.

A NewsWatch 12 reporter on the scene says that high winds are causing the fire to grow quickly. CAL FIRE now estimates that the fire covers over 50 acres and is still 0 percent contained.

Hundreds of homes are threatened, CAL FIRE says. Some structures may already have been destroyed.

Hornbrook lies north on the other side of the Klamath River from the initial evacuations, which were ordered for the community of Ager to the southeast and all homes along the Klamathon Road, which runs along the south bank of the river.

CAL FIRE says that an evacuation shelter is open at the Jackson Street School in Yreka, with a "large animal" shelter at the County Fairgrounds.

At last estimate, Hornbrook has a population of around 250 people, not counting the surrounding areas.

(Updated as of 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 5)

An evacuation order is in effect due to a growing wildfire about two miles southeast of the community of Hornbrook in Siskiyou County.

CAL FIRE says that the fire covers more than 30 acres and is not at all contained at this time. For this reason, all homes on Klamathon Road and all side roads are being ordered to evacuate between the community of Ager and Interstate-5.

This is a developing story. NewsWatch 12 has a reporter on the way.

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