AGNESS, Ore. — Fire officials thought they had a handle on the Western the side of the Klondike Fire burning out by Gold Beach.
Fire officials say they were getting ready to send firefighters home. But that all changed yesterday.
Governor Brown declared the fire a conflagration last night. That’s after strong wind gusts made the fire grow another 2,000 acres overnight threatening 100 homes.
Right now, fire officials say their top priority is to make sure the people in Agness are safe.
“Fire season’s not over so be careful out there folks…,”said Kale Casey, Public Information Officer for the Klondike Fire.
It may be mid-October, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Especially not while Oregon’s largest wildfire this year, the Klondike, is still burning strong at over 170,000 acres.
“Hopefully, this time of year we expect a little more rain. We expect more shading and the fuels to get a little more wet…instead it’s dry, low humidities just like July and August,” said Casey.
Level 3 or “go” evacuations were issued for parts of Agness Sunday.
That’s East of Gold Beach.
The fire’s been burning since July but it hasn’t been growing for weeks. However, that all changed Sunday afternoon.
“A significant event for this time of year that is the heartbreak for every firefighter that’s been out here all summer long…,” said Casey.
That’s because Checto Bar winds, blowing at 40 miles per hour, blew embers over fire lines towards Agness. And with last week’s dry, low humidity and hot temperatures, those embers ignited and flames spread another 2,000 acres.
“Sending embers all over the place. So, there was numerous spot fires,” said Casey.
Those conditions are the reason many fire agencies, including the Oregon Department of Forestry, are upping the fire danger level to “moderate.”
“We are seeing the warmer conditions, we’re seeing the windy weather…and that’s a really good recipe for fires to start and grow rapidly,” said Natalie Weber, Public Information Officer for Oregon Department of Forestry.
ODF says they don’t see fire season ending any time soon, but they are continuing to monitor weather conditions.
“As long as we’re seeing the sunny weather and higher temperatures and winds…we are going to stay in moderate,” she said. “We could even go up to high, it really depends on what we see in the forecast.”
Meanwhile, fire officials say they’re hoping to gain some ground on the Klondike Fire. But right now their top priority is making sure people in Agness are safe.
“When you have a fire moving very quickly with wind, you want people to have lots of time to gather their pets, gather their belongings and leave…,” said Casey.
Firefighters working on the Klondike Fire in Curry County today are continuing to watch for strong East and Northeast winds blowing in the area.
They’re hoping no more flames cross containment lines.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia. She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.