CHP says limited escort on Highway 199 hinges on Oregon’s side re-opening

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. – For the first time, crews have gained containment on the Smith River Complex.

“We had win and weather in our favor and in the topography we were able to get some containment lines and in certain areas to a point where we felt comfortable with calling those areas contained,” Northwest Incident Management Team 13 spokesperson Derek Shoun said.

Team 13, who is working the north side of the complex said parts of the south end are contained.

The largest fire of the complex, the Kelly Fire, has a small amount of containment.

As the fire spread more into Josephine County, Team 13 said it’s working on strengthening containment lines on the north side.

“Some of that has been more expected due to the weather we’ve been having, we’ve been having winds that our conducive for active fire behavior,” Shoun said. “We are out in front, we got a lot of dozers working and hand crews putting in hand line out in front of that.”

Aggressive fire behavior and severe weather pushed back the planned escorted opening of Highway 199 to Wednesday.

At 7 A.M And 5 P.M., Northbound traffic will go first, leaving from Gasquet and going up to the Oregon border will be escorted through.

Then, southbound traffic from the Oregon border to Gasquet will be allowed down the route.

However, California Highway Patrol in Crescent City said the plan is tentative and depends on if 199 opens on the Oregon side.

“We’re ready to go on our side,” CHP spokesperson Brandy Gonzalez said. “Obviously with the O’Brien side still being level 3 evacuations, 199 is closed on their end. There’s no point of us moving traffic through that way unless they open up. If they do, our side of the highway, I drove it today, it’s drivable, we can safely progress people through.”

According to CHP, after the 5 pm window, the road will be closed until 7 a.m. the next day.

They say opening the highway, even for a limited time is important for residents of Del Norte County to get across the border.

“A lot of our community go over there for cancer treatments and other medical procedures that they might need,” Gonzalez said. “So I think it’s a very valuable thing to be able to have that access and get through there.”

Right now, Highway 199 from O’Brien to the California border remains closed.

ODOT tells us it will remain that way until fire officials say it’s safe to re-open.

CHP will update residents on if Wednesday’s escort is still happening, no later than tomorrow.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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