Retired Forest Service employee’s house is saved in Beaver Fire, but outbuildings burn

Beaver Fire

Beth Strickland’s house is surrounded by fire near the ridge on the left side of this picture. The black smoke in that area may be vehicles and outbuildings burning.

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”.

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California: Beaver Fire

On Tuesday we were at the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, watching it move down and across slopes above the Klamath River. Below are some photos we took. Over the next two days we will post more.

Beaver Fire

The Beaver Fire has already reached Highway 96 in several places along a 12 to 14 mile stretch of the road. On Tuesday it was backing, primarily, down the hill in the vicinity of the Klamath River School, and east of the school. Generally it was moving fairly slowly while we were there, with one to three trees succumbing to flames at a time, or torching as firefighters call it.

Firefighters are protecting structures up in the woods away from the road as best they can. Helicopters were assisting ground-based firefighters by dropping water from the river and fire retardant from a portable retardant plant. At Fire Aviation you can see photos of a Sikorsky Air-Crane reloading with retardant. During the three hours we were at the south end of the fire we did not see any air tankers.

The last size estimate from the Incident Management Team was a couple of days ago when it was mapped at about 28,000 acres. Clouds at night have interfered with the ability of the airborne infrared mapping crew to accurately provide a fire perimeter and current acreage. The Team is calling it 30 percent contained.

Beaver Fire

Water was being pumped from the Klamath River to an overhead fill pipe for refilling water tenders.

Beaver Fire

Sleeping quarters for firefighters at the Klamath River School.

strike team of engines getting briefed.

A strike team of engines being briefed.

Beaver Fire

The hillside across from the Klamath River School.

free haircuts firefighters

Free haircuts in Yreka, CA for firefighters. I didn’t ask if tanning was also free.

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