Forest Service protecting historical sites from Klondike Fire using Kevlar foil

(Courtesy: USFS)

Because of the growth of the Klondike Fire, U.S. Forest Service crews have taken steps to protect historical buildings and sites in the path of the fire.

One in particular is one of the few remaining cedar bark buildings in the entire Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The building they wrapped in Kevlar foil was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps after the Great Depression. Store Gulch Guard Station is a nationally recognized historical site because of where and when it was built.

USFS public affairs official Chamise Kramer says the CCC was a way to bring back jobs and help national forests grow.

"It's a piece of our history, and people have a very strong connection to the buildings that were built by the civilian conservation core," Kramer said. "It was a really unique time in the forest service history."

Kramer says a roll of foil costs approximately $750 to $800 and covers about 750 square feet. To cover the cedar bark building costs thousands of dollars. The cost alone prohibits crews from using foil to protect every threatened building from wildfire. Typically, crews will use it to protect historical sites like buildings, grounds and bridges.

The building from 1933 has already been wrapped numerous times and survived various fires in the past because of the foil. It's not a 100% guarantee, because, as Kramer puts it, nothing ever is when it comes to wildfire. Crews will not only use foil, but also use sprinklers and take other preventative measures so when fire burns close the building, it is not burned down.

According to Kramer and Wednesday's Klondike Fire maps, the fire has already burned into the area where the Store Gulch Guard Station stands. Crews will have to wait until there "is no longer a threat of fire" to check on the building and make sure it is still standing, according to Kramer.

Kramer mentioned a big question they always get when wrapping sites in Kevlar foil is if it's available for personal use. Kramer says it is, but because of the high cost, it may not be financially reasonable to purchase rolls of the foil to protect the average home or building from wildfire.

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