The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) is best known for its main task: creating a free-flowing Klamath River by removing four hydroelectric dams under the oversight of state and federal regulators. Part of KRRC’s work is to limit impacts on the communities that rely on the many benefits the river provides, including water for firefighting. Our commitment – and a requirement of this project – is to ensure that dam removal will not cause a net reduction in regional firefighting resources. Both during and after demolition of the dams, KRRC is required to make sure the fire ignition risk that currently exists will not increase compared to the level of risk facing today’s Klamath Basin.
Everyone recognizes the Klamath Basin is wildfire country. We don’t take the risk of wildfire lightly. When fires start, particularly when conditions are extreme, catching them early makes all the difference in the world. It is exponentially easier to snuff out a small fire rather than a raging inferno.
That’s why KRRC’s Fire Management Plan (Fire Plan) includes installing a Monitored Detection System: state-of-the-art camera technology that will dramatically improve early fire detection capabilities in the Klamath Basin. Using high-definition imagery and video transmitted from cameras strategically placed at fire lookouts, this brand-new asset will be far more effective at catching fires early than human lookouts or reports from residents who see smoke in the air. Early detection has the potential to save minutes to hours of time from ignition to the arrival of initial firefighting resources compared to detections from 911 calls.
KRRC and the regulators who oversee our work also understand that detection is not enough. Firefighters need access to water. So KRRC’s Fire Plan lays out new firefighting assets for the Klamath Basin to help offset the loss of reservoirs that have been used in past years for firefighting purposes. Self-supporting water tanks will be added at strategic locations to supplement aerial and ground-based water supplies. These new tanks will hold up to 5,000 gallons of water and could be stored, erected, and filled rapidly for initial attack activities.
KRRC will also install “dry hydrants,” which are pipes permanently installed into pools in the Klamath River that will have water even in low flow conditions. Dry hydrants provide a simple and reliable water supply for ground-based firefighting crews to quickly fill fire engines and water tenders.
KRRC will also map and prepare new aerial river access points (ARAPs) as part of its fire planning work. ARAPs will be identified in parts of the river that are now within the reservoirs formed by the dams that are slated for removal; exact locations will be determined once the dams are removed and the river is reestablished. KRRC will identify ARAPs that are compatible with Type 1 helicopters with snorkels, meaning water resources for aerial firefighting will remain strong even after the dams are gone. The river itself will provide multiple opportunities for tanking up firefighting helicopters. And, of course, Lake Euwana and Upper Klamath Lake will remain as resources for firefighters.
KRRC’s Fire Plan was developed in close collaboration with CAL FIRE and the Oregon Department of Forestry, and both agencies have endorsed the plan. KRRC is committed to being a good neighbor to Basin communities, and our Fire Plan reflects that commitment.