After working for the Six Rivers National Forest for 29 years, Beth Maplesden Strickland is familiar with wildfire. Her last job with the U.S. Forest Service was serving as a public affairs officer, frequently having to explain fire management to reporters and local residents.
Now evacuated from her home on Buckhorn Ridge near Klamath River, California, she is reduced to watching the fire from a turnout on Highway 96. Thanks to the fuel mitigation they accomplished around the house where the family has lived since 1909, firefighters were able to keep the home from burning. However several outbuildings and vehicles were consumed. As we watched the fire, which was still burning in and around the property, occasional black puffs of smoke would appear and loud pops or small explosions could be heard, indicating that man-made materials were on fire. A former CAL FIRE firefighter was still in the area near the house and has been giving her updates over a radio, so she knew that as of Tuesday afternoon, anyway, that the house was still standing.
We asked Ms. Strickland if we could take her picture, but she declined, saying she’s been “sleeping in dumpsters” for the last four days. (We are pretty sure she was joking about that.) It was hard for her to take her eyes off the fire as it continued to burn around her home that she has lived in since four months after she was born in Yreka. Knowing that the landscape around the property is going to be almost unrecognizable now, she said, “I don’t know if I can go back”.