California: Orleans and Salmon River fire complexes

Map of Orleans and Salmon River Complexes of fires
Map of Orleans and Salmon River Complexes of fires (click to enlarge)

Two complexes of fires in northern California, shown on the maps, are seven miles apart but are on different national forests, which could be one reason they have not been combined into just one complex.

3-D Map of Salmon River and Orleans Complexes of fires August 3, 2013
3-D Map of Salmon River and Orleans Complexes of fires August 3, 2013 (click to enlarge)

Salmon River Complex 

The Salmon River Complex on the Klamath National Forest consists of at least two fires that as of early Sunday morning were about a tenth of a mile apart, burning 6 miles northeast of Forks of the Salmon, 2 miles northwest of Sawyers Bar, and 64 miles northwest of Redding. The Type 1 California Interagency Incident Management Team One assumed command of the Complex at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Orleans Complex 

The Orleans Complex comprises two fires on the Six Rivers National Forest. The Dance Fire is right at the community of Orleans and is burning on both sides of Highway 96. It started July 29 and is contained. The other is the Butler Fire 7 miles east of Orleans and about 49 miles northeast of Eureka. It was detected July 31, is listed at 3 percent containment, and has burned 1,463 acres. Northern California Interagency Team Two is managing the incident.

Salmon River Road, also known as Highway 93, is adjacent to three of these four fires and is closed.

Below is an update from the incident management team:

The fire reached the Morehouse Mine area, where structures are threatened. As of this morning, the fire lines are holding around those structures. The fire continues to burn mostly on the south side of the Salmon River in the area east of Butler Flat. Efforts to reach a spot fire on the north side of the river continue to be hampered by poor visibility and steep terrain. The fire was active around the perimeter yesterday and progressed across Lewis Creek (on the southern side) and into Grant Creek drainage (on the northeastern side). The fire is burning in the fire scars of the Hog Fire (1977). Difficult terrain, heavy vegetation, snags and poor access to the fire have continued to limit firefighting strategies. Crews are working today to open and utilize lines from the Somes Fire (2006).

Smoke issues

All of these fires are burning in an area that is infamous for long-duration fires subject to frequent inversions that trap wildfire smoke, sometimes creating air quality and health issues for sensitive residents. The incident management teams are referring residents to these websites for more information about the smoke:

On Saturday dense smoke limited the use of aircraft and the ability of fire managers to get an aerial view of the fires. A USFS fixed-wing aircraft using infrared equipment mapped the Salmon River Complex Saturday night.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “California: Orleans and Salmon River fire complexes”

  1. When the Hog Fire was burning in 1977, the Pike Hotshots were fighting the Fong Fire which was located across the Forks of the Salmon in steep rough country. Daily inversions kept visibility low, making it extremely hard to fight the fire. Working in thick smoke for more that a week, took its toll on all the crews trying to contain the fire. Working long shifts combined with high carbon monoxide levels, was a safety factor that at times, had to affect our ability to make quality decisions – the mind doesn’t perform well in such dangerous conditions.

    1. I was there with the Nez Perce National Forest Interregional Crew.

      This was one of the worst fires because of the inversion and type of vegetation. We were mopping-up hot spots after the fire burned the undergrowth. All of the sudden you could hear what sounded like a roar, but we couldn’t see anything because the smoke was held on the ground due to the inversion. Next thing we knew, flames were racing through the crown and over our heads. Fortunately we were on a ridge line and everyone scattered down the back-side of the ridge and away from the flames. It happened so fast some didn’t have time to grab tools or saws.

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