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Klondike Fire Officially Declared 100% Contained

Contact(s): Virginia Gibbons

For Immediate Release
Contact: Virginia Gibbons (541) 618-2113
Twitter: @RRSNF

 Klondike Fire Officially Declared 100% Contained

Southwest OR—November 30, 2018—The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest recently declared the Klondike Fire 100% contained on November 28 at 1:00 p.m. Recent precipitation, in combination with the extended weather forecast, supports this determination.  

Containment of the Klondike Fire means the Forest Service is confident that it will not cross any fire lines. It is important to note, however, that the Klondike has not been declared controlled or completely out.

“We are pleased to report at this time that there is no Level 1 evacuation status and no closures in place for Taylor/Klondike. Southwest Oregon is enjoying clear skies with only occasional smoke impacts associated with our fall/winter prescribed burning program,” said Fire Staff Officer Eric Hensel. 

The Klondike/Taylor Fire, located 9 miles northwest of Selma, began on July 15, 2018 as a result of a lightning storm that ignited over 120 fires in southwest Oregon. The fire burned a total of 175,528 acres, required oversight and management by 14 Incident Management Teams and cost over $104 million to suppress. The Klondike Fire repeatedly threatened the communities of Selma, Oak Flat and Agness, causing numerous public land and road closures and impacting recreational access to the Rogue River.

Like the Silver Fire (1987) and Biscuit Fire (2002) which preceded it, the Klondike Fire was extremely difficult to suppress due to its location in the very steep and rugged terrain in and around the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. This, in combination with heavy fuel loading, limited road access and virtually no escape routes or safety zones for firefighters to retreat to when the fire became active, posed significant challenges to firefighters both on the ground and in the air.

The rugged terrain makes it difficult for air tankers, particularly the heavier planes that carry more retardant, to make safe and effective approaches and retardant drops. It is important to understand that retardant drops alone do not put fires out. It requires firefighters on the ground working in tandem with the aircraft in order to effectively extinguish wildfires.

“Air resources have their limits and the terrain will dictate some of those limitations. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is a very challenging location to fight fire,” said Forest Aviation Officer Amanda Lucas-Rice.

The Taylor Fire, located 10 miles of Grants Pass in Josephine County, also began on July 15 and eventually joined with the Klondike Fire. The Taylor Fire, declared 100% contained on October 11, burned approximately 53,000 acres and threatened the city of Grants Pass while costing approximately $24 million to suppress.

Both fires required numerous evacuations of multiple communities, impacting thousands of southwest Oregon residents for weeks and months at a time with either the direct threat of fire and/or thick smoke that created significant health risks and economic impacts.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest experienced an unprecedented fire season in 2018 that came on the heels of an extremely busy fire season in 2017. In 2018, a total of 42 Incident Management Teams cycled through the forest in 2-week assignments to provide the extra support and firefighting resources needed to actively suppress all of the large fires that were burning, including the Taylor/Klondike (Merlin, Selma, Oak Flat. Grants Pass), the Hendrix (Applegate), the Natchez (Happy Camp) and the Miles (Prospect/Tiller).

“We very much appreciate all of the interagency federal, tribal, state, county, local fire departments and protective associations, human service organizations and neighboring National Forests for the tremendous amount of assistance and support provided to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest this year,” said Forest Supervisor Merv George, Jr.

In addition to the many trained personnel who came from across the U.S. to assist southwestern Oregon, we appreciate the positive support provided by the local communities who endured some very challenging situations for an extended period of time.

“Our biggest success this year is the fact that everyone who came to help us returned home to their families and no residents were hurt. Our thoughts and prayers are with those communities and families who weren’t so fortunate this year,” added George.

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) activities continue within the Klondike Fire area. To date, good progress has been made on road work, with an estimated 80% of the work completed in the Illinois River corridor out to the Josephine County Oak Flat residences. Some work was started in the Pearsoll Peak area but weather has been limiting access. Current work is occurring on Forest Road 2512 from Sam Brown Campground up to Flat Top.

Debris and burned material has been recently observed on forest roads and many snags (dead trees) are still standing in the fire area. The public is reminded to remain vigilant to these safety hazards when traveling on forest roads, or when visiting the forest for recreation, hunting or other activities.