We have to give thanks to the many firefighters who have jumped on the fire lines surrounding our county these last few weeks.
It is a blessing that Klamath and Lake counties have not had an extremely serious wildfire to contend with…yet. There have been a few, and some still have questions about how they were started. But they have been relatively small compared to the ones along the I-5 corridor.
Suffice it to say that we are fortunate to be breathing relatively smoke-free air here in early August. Last year, we were not so lucky.
Of interest is the work the Fremont-Winema National Forest air tanker base has been performing. It has been especially busy, which is a sign that foresters are jumping on blazes earlier and with more manpower than in the past.
Wyatt Hefley, assistant air tanker base manager, sent us a roundup of the good work they’ve been accomplishing since early summer:
“Our first fire where we loaded air tankers on was the Goose 2 Fire on the Modoc National Forest on July 17. We loaded 31,000 gallons for 10 loads of fire retardant,” Hefley reports. This was about a month later than the airbase’s first fire of the season last year.
“Since then, we have flown two days on the Tucker Fire near Alturas on the Modoc National Forest — July 28-29 — and dropped 120,000 gallons of retardant on the Tucker in two days.” Several air tankers were employed, for a total of 57 loads.
“This fire alone we dropped close to as much retardant as we did in the individual 2015 and 2016 fire seasons, (individually, not combined),” said Hefley.
The Harriette Lake Fire in the Mountain Lakes Wilderness area was likely the closest to Klamath Falls. On July 29, the base flew single engine air tankers, like those used for agricultural spraying, to put 10 loads of water supporting the Helitack repel crew and other firefighter’s suppression efforts at the lake.
During that blaze, up to 14 staff members were working at peak hours and that didn’t include, pilots, mechanics and fueling personnel from the base.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Forest Service’s mascot, Smokey the Bear. We all know his motto. But oddly, it still doesn’t resonate with some backcountry campers. Campfires continue to be the main source of forest wildfires.
We’re not out of the woods yet, and tourism economies such at the Britt Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the upcoming Crater Lake Ride the Rim bicycle ride are all deeply affected by wildfire smoke.
So, thank you again to the firefighters, and for everyone else enjoying the backcountry, please go and enjoy, but without a campfire.