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Northern California fires scorch through tough terrain

 Posted: 11:35 AM August 02, 2013

The Shelly and Boulder fires making up the Salmon River Complex in Northern California's Klamath National Forest grew 300 acres overnight and now encompass 1,600 acres, according to Ken Sandusky, public affairs officer for the Klamath National Forest.

The fires exploded from 70 acres to 1,200 acres Thursday, and officials expect the fires to grow again today.

The fires are burning in heavy timber in inaccessible terrain, "and burning conditions have made it a very complex event," Sandusky said. "It's probably going to be a long-term event."

An interagency fire incident team from Southern California is expected to arrive today to take over management of the fire, Sandusky reported.

"The fires are not big yet in terms acreage, but where they're burning, and their proximity to other fires in the area makes these fires more complex than just their size alone would show," he said, referring to the Orleans Complex, which includes the Butler fire and Dance fire burning in the Six Rivers National Forest.

That complex has burned about 1,000 acres, officials said.

The Butler fire is approximately 10 miles east of Somes Bar, and a Northern California Interagency Team 2 is managing the response.

The fire is burning mostly on the south side of the Salmon River. A spot fire detected yesterday on the north side of the fire was estimated to be about a quarter acre and was being held with helicopter support.

The Salmon River, and land adjacent to the river, is closed between Wooley Creek and Nordheimer Campground.

Highway 93 is closed because the fire is burning on both sides of the road.

Roughly 400 personnel are fighting the fires in the Salmon River Complex.

"There are some potential structural threats, and we project that fire behavior could threaten Sawyer's Bar in the next day or two," Sandusky said.

In addition, some historic mining structures and cell towers in the area could be threatened, he said.

Weather forecasts call for south to southwest winds and an onshore flow, which could cause poor air quality in low-lying areas in Siskiyou County as the fires grow, Sandusky said. In addition, a lightning storm is predicted for next week.

"Fire season is just getting started," Sandusky said. "Southern Oregon is off to the races and we're getting going now."

— David Smigelski


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