Smith River Complex impacting an iconic country store in Cave Junction

CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. – Governor Tina Kotek declaring an emergency conflagration for the Smith River Complex.

The complex is now over 73,000 acres in size and is 7% contained.

Over 100 personnel from the Oregon State Fire Marshall’s Office are in Josephine County to help crews fighting the Smith River Complex.

This comes after local agencies asked the state for more resources.

“A conflagration was declared, which goes from Illinois Valley Fire District to their fire defense board chief, to the state fire marshal and the up to the governor,” OSFM spokesperson Rachel Brozovich said. “And that allowed us to mobilize resources in from around the state, which is basically borrowing resources from all around Oregon.”

Five task forces from Klamath, Lane, Benton, Marion, and Polk counties are arriving to provide structure protection for homes threatened by the complex.

“What they’re doing is starting structural triage,” Brozovich said. “What that looks like is evacuating access to the homes, evaluating what kind of apparatus we can get into those homes and areas. And starting to do what we call surface preparation, basically removing any readily ignitable fuels from around the building.”

The fires have been burning for weeks hurting air quality and businesses in Cave Junction, including ‘Taylor’s Sausage Country Store’.

“We are a destination stop between the valley and the coast,” Charles Taylor said.

Charles and Marilyn Taylor and their two sons own the store.

They’re known for their famous variety of meats and hot foods.

Typically, the store brings in travelers from Highway 199.

“The inside here, parking lot full,” Taylor said. “This would be a long line waiting served at our hot case and counter.”

But the Smith River Complex has forced Highway 199 in California and part of Oregon to shut down, cutting off vital traffic to their business.

“Since the fire, we’ve gone less than half, we’re down below half, of what we normally do,” Taylor said. “It’s been hard and you have to gear all your employees back and that’s not an easy task when you’re all geared up for summer.”

The store has temporarily laid off half of it’s roughly 50 staff members because of the slow down.

Charles said it’s an important lesson learned about how important Highway 199 means to the business.

“If there is a positive thing to this closure, we found out how much the highway has meant to us,” Taylor said. “It’s the first time we’ve had the roads closed, we’ve had a lot of fires, but never the highway being shut down for this length of time.”

The Taylors tell us a limited escort of the highway won’t be enough to return their business to normal.

But they believe once Highway 199 fully re-opens, they’ll see many of their customers come back.

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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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