Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023 @ 7:48 p.m. / Fire

State, Local Elected Officials, Pacific Power Promise Water, Personnel, Generators to Fire-Beleaguered Del Norte

Today's Smith River Complex community meeting


State Sen. Mike McGuire promised generators, bottled water, additional personnel, cots and other necessities to Del Norters who spent their second day in the dark due to the Smith River Complex.

With flames from two of the 12 fires on the Gasquet Ranger District threatening the only transmission line serving Del Norte County, McGuire said Pacific Power is sending commercial and residential generators to the county. Fifteen of those commercial-grade generators arrived in Del Norte on Saturday, he said.

They will be used at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, schools that may need to offer shelter to the community and other facilities that could offer a place for residents to power oxygen tanks or charge their phones, McGuire said.

“Those generators are arriving and have arrived,” the state senator said during a community meeting Saturday evening at the fairgrounds. “The state is actively engaged in making sure the hospital has everything it needs and the state is monitoring the number of residents at the local Red Cross shelter. We’re monitoring ongoing needs and if we need to increase the amount of food delivered, the amount of water, the state will deliver on that.”

According to McGuire, the state has shipped 22,200 gallons of bottled water that was expected to arrive Saturday evening. An additional 84,000 gallons will arrive in Del Norte County in the next 48 hours, he said.

Meanwhile, Del Norte County Sheriff Garrett Scott has requested mutual aid from across California, McGuire said. Residents will see an enhanced law enforcement presence as a result along with dispatchers to provide relief to “those on the front lines.”

As for U.S. 199 — which is closed until at least the middle of next week, according to Caltrans — the state has secured a contractor that will clear the road as soon as state and local fire officials give him the green light, McGuire said.

“I can’t stress it enough, the state will be here morning, noon and night,” McGuire said. “Whatever you need we will deliver. That is a promise.”

The Smith River Complex consists of 12 fires scattered throughout the Gasquet Ranger District of the Six Rivers National Forest. The result of a dry lightning storm that came through the region on Tuesday, national forest officials knew it was coming and staffed up, said Forest Supervisor Ted McArthur. But due to the dry fuels and difficult terrain, they were unable to get a handle on several, he said.

That dry lightning storm earlier this week sparked 27 fires across the forest, McArthur said. In addition to working with California Interagency Incident Management Team 15, which assumed command on Thursday, the National Forest is working with the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, CalFire and other agencies to “try and take care of the needs of the community,” McArthur said.

“We all have a common vision in what we’re trying to accomplish and achieve in suppressing this fire as quickly and as safely as possible,” he said.

Currently, communities between Pioneer Road and the Oregon border at a Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation status, according to a Six Rivers news release Saturday. This includes the communities of Patrick Creek, Little Jones Creek, Washington Flat, Coon Creek and the Panther Flat Campground area.

High Divide, Rowdy Creek and Gasquet from Pioneer Road to Slant Bridge are at a Level 2 “Be Set” evacuation status. And French Hill Road, Big Flat and Rock Creek, Low Divide and Hiouchi from Slant Bridge to the east end of North Bank Road are at a Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation status, according to the news release.

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds. Community resource tents will be available at Del Norte High School near the tennis courts for people to get water, charge their phones as well as access restroom facilities. The hours for the resource center at the high school are from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. starting Sunday.

Community Resource centers will also be available at Margaret Keating Elementary School in Klamath, 300 Minot Creek Road, and at Smith River School, 564 W. First Street. The hours there are from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.

The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is also offering light snacks, water, coffee, a place for folks to charge their phones and other electronic devices from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. There are also showers, though folks should bring their own necessities and be courteous, said spokeswoman Emily Reed.

Charging stations are also available at the Del Norte County Regional Airport in Crescent City for portable oxygen machines, said Del Norte OES Director Neal Lopez.

Toward the end of the meeting, one county resident asked when Pacific Power will be able to restore power. The utility’s communications director, Simon Gutierrez, said that depends on the fire’s behavior. With flames encroaching on Pacific Power’s transmission line, it’s impossible to tell currently, Gutierrez said.
Plus, the thick wildfire smoke in the area can conduct electricity, Gutierrez added.

“You can have a spark or an arc going through the smoke, it wants to go to ground and that potentially can start another fire,” he said. “What we’re looking at is a situation where we could have multiple additional fires starting if those lines are energized, which puts the community and the firefighters at even greater risk. We want to keep the community safe, keep the firefighters safe so it was the best decision for everyone to de-energize that line.”

For more information, call the Forest Service Fire Hotline at (707) 383-9727, the Del Norte OES hotline at (707) 464-0911 or (707) 954-3704.

Updates will also be provided on KPOD 97.9 FM and KCRE 94.3 as well as the Del Norte Office of Emergency Services Facebook page. People can also sign up for community alerts by clicking here.


© 2024 Lost Coast Communications Contact: