Environment & Science

Evacuations remain in effect as firefighters brace NorCal homes for wildfire

The Happy Camp Complex is made up of two fires sparked by lightning storms on August 11 that have since merged.
The Happy Camp Complex is made up of two fires sparked by lightning storms on August 11 that have since merged.
Courtesy Inciweb

A wildfire burning in Northern California continues to threaten homes and other structures, two days after many in the area were evacuated, fire officials said Sunday. 

The Happy Camp Complex Fire is burning in the Klamath National Forest just south of the Oregon border, near the small town of Happy Camp, California. Incident spokesman Ralph Gonzales said 695 residential homes, RVs and campground structures in the area are threatened. Mandatory evacuations were issued two days ago and remain in effect. 

"We do have a structure defense group that's been looking at those homes," Gonzales said. "They've been prepping the structures so they become defendable."

Gonzales said that includes clearing areas around the homes to remove brush and wood, and installing other systems to help stem the fire.

"In some areas, they also put sprinkler kits," he said. "And they also wrap the structures — they have aluminized fabric and they wrap the structure with it."

Gonzales said officials are keeping the main thoroughfare, Highway 96, open to traffic, though a stretch of the roadway from Scott River Road to the Walker Creek Bridge is accessible only by CHP escort.

"It's a challenge up here because the roads are pretty small," he said. "And when we start getting a lot of apparatus and fire fighting equipment, it starts getting tight in there. Especially when we have crews working by the side of the road."

Firetracker: Happy Camp Complex

The Happy Camp Complex is a combination of several fires that were sparked by a lightning storm on August 11. Since then, dry weather and light winds have enabled them to grow and merge. Rough terrain and smoky overhead conditions have made it difficult for firefighters to get a handle on the blaze on the ground or by air. 

"We've had significant runs, gaining two thousand acres a day," Gonzales said."A lot if it's burning in that really steep, wooded areas where access is difficult." 

Gonzales said this has been an extremely difficult year for firefighters, as conditions have been exacerbated by the drought.