Home Recovery Governor Declares State of Emergency as Fire That Closed Interstate 5 Tops 5,000 Acres

Governor Declares State of Emergency as Fire That Closed Interstate 5 Tops 5,000 Acres


By Kellen Browning and Daniel Hunt
The Sacramento Bee

A fast-moving fire in Siskiyou County that closed Interstate 5 from Yreka to Ashland, Oregon, and forced evacuations on Thursday afternoon has grown to 5,000 acres, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

The Klamathon Fire has destroyed several structures and is threatening more in Hornbrook, Cal Fire said. About 250 people live in the unincorporated town, 15 miles north of Yreka. The fire started around noon southeast of the town, according to the Mail Tribune of Medford, Oregon, and exploded from 1,000 acres around 5 p.m.

An evacuation order is in effect for Hornbrook off Klamathon Road and Copco Road and from I-5 north to Ager, Hornbrook, Hilt and Colestein Valley in Oregon, the agency said.

An evacuation shelter has been set up at the Jackson Street School in Yreka, Cal Fire said, and a large animal shelter was being set up at the Siskiyou County Fairgrounds. Across the border, Red Cross officials have set up a shelter at Ashland High School.

Photos on social media, retweeted by Caltrans and other agencies, showed flames along Interstate 5 in several places, including the fire jumping Cottonwood Creek, which crosses the freeway a mile north of Hornbrook.

State resources, including employees, provisions and facilities, will be devoted to battling the fire, according to the governor's announcement. The California Office of Emergency Services will provide assistance to Siskiyou County officials as needed. Already, according to a retweet by CalOES, two officials from the Los Angeles Fire Department have been sent to help map the fire area.

The declaration cited the circumstances of the fire -- including high heat, wind and lack of humidity -- to be "beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid or regions to combat."

Brown's declaration also said that the fire had "destroyed structures and continues to threaten additional homes and livestock" and continues to threaten the "critical infrastructure" of Interstate 5, the largest north-south transportation artery for the West Coast.

Additionally, a Fire Management Assistance Grant from FEMA has been secured to assist in firefighting and relief efforts, according to a tweet from the California Office of Emergency Services. According to FEMA, the request for a grant is fulfilled when a "threat of major disaster" exists.

The California Highway Patrol has halted all northbound traffic at the North Yreka exit while the Oregon Department of Transportation has stopped all traffic from entering California from South Ashland, Caltrans tweeted. There is no estimated time for the reopening of the freeway, the agency said, and crews were unable Thursday night to access the damaged portions of the roadway.

Northbound travelers through the area are utilizing U.S. Highway 97 near Weed to Oregon Highway 140 in Klamath Falls or farther north to Oregon Highway 58 north of Chemult, according to officials from both state transportation agencies.

Spokesman Gary Leaming told the Mail Tribune, that ODOT also has closed Old Highway 99, which runs south from the Emigrant Lake area, to stem the flow of traffic trying to bypass the closure. ___


This article is written by Kellen Browning And Daniel Hunt from The Sacramento Bee and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.