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Firefighters are making more headway on the Caldwell Fire that's been burning in the Modoc National Forest since July 22.
The lightning-caused blaze stayed within control lines Thursday and remained at 79,316 acres Friday morning while containment reached 61% — a big jump from Thursday's 45%.
Firefighters paused Friday to honor David Ruhl, who died in the line of duty July 31, 2015, while scouting a Modoc County wildfire. Ruhl, 38, of Rapid City, South Dakota, died of smoke inhalation after he got trapped in erratic winds at the Frog Fire.
The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has lifted evacuation orders at Medicine Lake and residents of private cabins have been allowed to return.
However the Medicine Lake Recreation Area is still closed because it's occupied by firefighters and their equipment. The closure includes U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, recreational areas and day-use areas there.
RELATED: California fire tracker: Map traces current fires burning across state in real-time
A red-flag warning for northeast California was due to expire at 8 p.m. Friday so fire crews faced another day of dry and hot conditions along with gusty winds. Friday's high was expected to reach 96 with afternoon winds between 12 to 17 mph and gusts up to 28 mph. On a positive note, lightning isn't expected over the next week.
"Long-term weather trends are forecast to stay hot, breezy, dry and unstable. No rain or thunderstorms are predicted for the next seven days," fire officials said.
Crews fighting the fire about 30 miles northwest of Canby were able to improve and reinforce control lines around most of the blaze.
Smoke continued to reduce visibility as the Caldwell Butte and other spots continued to burn inside the fire's boundaries. The fire is burning tall, dry grass, brush and timber in the rugged, volcanic landscape.
Forest Service officials say most of the smoke is coming from fires set by firefighters to reduce burnable areas and shore up containment lines or from the unburned pockets of vegetation within the lines.
Firefighters intentionally set backfires to keep flames from getting closer to Medicine Lake. They were able to hold the fire at the 49 Road — the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway — in Lava Beds National Monument, which remained closed to visitors.
The north side of the fire has died down on the southern edge of Tule Lake in the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Crews on the east side kept the fire from crossing County Road 120 and behind control lines east of the railroad tracks.
The BNSF Railway’s fire train that sprayed water from the tracks has been sent back to its base in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Two other fires also started by the July 22 lightning storm have been fully contained. Those are the 1,367-acre Dalton Fire and the 1,035-acre Allen Fire.
Firefighters hope to have the Caldwell Fire at the Siskiyou-Modoc county line fully contained on Aug. 22.
Elsewhere in the Modoc National Forest, crews are dealing with at least a dozen other smaller lightning-caused fires that started the night of July 21.
Crews held the fire to 21,870 acres as containment creeped up to 80%.
Areas remain under evacuation orders with some residents receiving evacuation warnings.
- Location: Highway 139 and County Road A-2, south of Adin, in northern Lassen County
- Start date: July 20
- Cause: Under investigation
- Evacuation orders, warnings and road closures are listed at https://bit.ly/3hHyhQX
- Damage: 13 structures destroyed; five structures damaged
- Injuries: 3
The fire remained at 9,564 acres with containment up to 91%
- Location: Hog Flat Reservoir, west of Susanville, in southern Lassen County
- Start date: July 18
- Cause: Under investigation
- Evacuation warnings are listed at https://bit.ly/305CSX1
- Damage: Two structures destroyed
Shasta-Trinity National Forest
The Red Salmon Complex was still burning Friday morning in the remote wilderness of the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers national forests.
The two fires in the complex — the Salmon Fire and the Red Fire — were a combined 1,060 acres with no containment.
Helicopter pilots are flying out of a helibase in Willow Creek to make water drops to back up ground crews.
Firefighters are opening up previous fire lines and fire scars to keep the fires from growing.
Klamath National Forest
Crews made good progress on 35 small lightning fires that started on the forest Sunday and Monday.
As of Thursday evening, 11 of the fires were extinguished, 21 are controlled or contained, and firefighters are either improving containment lines or mopping up on the remaining three.
- The 96 Fire was discovered Wednesday near Highway 96 in the Oak Knoll area. Air tankers and helicopters kept it to 9 acres three miles downriver from Horse Creek. Hand crews and engines were working to contain it.
- The Little Soda Fire was at 54 acres and 40% contained three miles north of Beaver Creek.
- Evacuation warnings have been lifted for the 11-acre Doolittle Fire in the Happy Camp area where fire crews are mopping up.
Meanwhile at Siskiyou County's border with Oregon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has the Jenny Fire fully contained. The fire was 13.2 acres with 1.6 acres of it in California and 11.6 acres in Oregon.
Mike Chapman is a reporter and photographer for the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif. His newspaper career spans Yreka and Eureka in Northern California and Bellingham, Wash. Follow him on Twitter @mikechapman_RS. Subscribe today!
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