Klamath drainage blaze has fire crews frustrated

Although two of the three blazes in the Fort Complex fires have been largely contained, the stubborn Goff fire in the Klamath River drainage continues to grow.

The Goff fire has burned some 5,300 acres and is 15 percent contained. The southeast edge of the fire on Friday was about three miles from Seiad Valley, a hamlet of about 350 people along the north side of the river.

"Our first priority is the protection of the Seiad Valley community," said Mike Ferris, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman for the fire burning in the Klamath National Forest.

"A lot of our focus and attention is to reinforce the fire line around the southeast flank of the fire where it has the potential to come down and threaten the community," he added. "The work is all hand line because there is no opportunity to use dozers."

The Goff fire combined Friday with other fires farther south near Redding and east of the Cascades in Oregon to fill the skies over the Rogue Valley with smoke. The National Weather Service said Friday that local residents are likely to get another dose of smoke-filled skies today, especially in the afternoon and evening.

Despite the several larger wildfires burning in Northern California, ample crews are available to battle the Goff fire, Ferris said.

"We're getting the resources we need," he said Friday. "We had three hot shot crews come in this morning."

The three additional 20-person crews, all from Southern California, boosts the number of firefighters assigned to the blaze to nearly 450. There are also eight helicopters dropping water and fire retardant on the fires, along with nine fire engines and four water tenders assigned to the fire.

A structure protection unit is on hand in the event the fire approaches the community. That group of firefighters is making structure assessments and beginning preparations along Seiad Creek Road should the fire advance that far, officials said.

Wildland firefighters are making good progress in reinforcing the fire line between the community and the fire, Ferris said.

There are 85 homes and 10 outbuildings in the hamlet, he noted.

Like the other fires in the complex, the Goff fire is burning in extremely rugged terrain, making firefighting difficult, officials said.

If conditions permit, firefighters may burn the fuel between the fire and the established fire line, they noted. However, those tactics, often used effectively to battle fires by starving the blaze of its fuel, would be used only under safe conditions, they stressed.

Closures near the fire include a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The 403-acre Lick fire high in the Applegate River drainage and the 977-acre Hello fire in the Red Buttes Wilderness in the Fort complex are no longer active, officials said.

The Lick fire is 97 percent contained while the Hello fire is 83 percent contained. Both fires are in the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

All three fires in the complex were ignited by an Aug. 5 thunderstorm.

More information on the fires and closures is available at www.inciweb.org.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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