Klamathon Fire crews prepare for triple-digit temperatures

Many Hornbrook residents have returned home, but experts warn less than favorable conditions are on the horizon. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

It's been nearly a week since the Klamathon Fire began tearing through northern California, burning more than 36,000 acres and destroying 82 structures.

Fire crews anticipated little fire behavior Wednesday, but said that doesn't necessarily mean they are out of the woods.

Cal Fire said with flames at 65 percent containment, things are starting to look up. Many Hornbrook residents have returned home, but experts warn less than favorable conditions are on the horizon.

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Sean Luchs is just one of the 2,700 hundred personnel working on the fire. Pulling 16 hours shifts, he and one other Incident Meteorologist specialize in knowing what weather conditions are coming when.

"We spend our time forecasting so the management team and the firefighters know the weather they can expect, both very detailed for the upcoming day and an outlook for the ensuing days," said Luchs, who works with the National Weather Service.

According to Luchs, this week is bringing the heat.

"We're in the early parts of a warming and drying trend, looking to get particularly hot on Thursday," he said. "Maybe some hundred degree-plus temperatures."

Besides triple-digits, he forecasted a 10-20 percent chance of thunderstorms. While some rain might sound like a good thing, he cautions it could bring some not-so-needed lightning.

"Lightning can be particularly hazardous both for the safety of the firefighters if they have to be out and a storm were to start nearby, but also the possibility of starting new fires if there's not enough rainfall that comes with the storm," he said.

But rain or shine, firefighters will be on the front lines working through it all. Upcoming weather conditions mean they'll have to be extra careful before ailments like heat exhaustion and dehydration take hold.

"We're used to working in those types of conditions," said Koby Johns with Cal Fire. "But it doesn't minimize the strain it puts us under. The biggest thing that we do to compensate for that is we hydrate. There is just a ton of water that is delivered to this incident base."

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The Klamathon Fire Incident Base, located at the Siskiyou County Fairgrounds, is the temporary home to trailers and buildings meeting any potential need fire personnel might have. In the midst of it all is a trailer with the Mountain Medics logo on the side.

Specializing in fire camp healthcare, Mountain Medics has been in business for four years. CEO Chad McCall, who also serves as a paramedic and Registered Nurse, and his 20 employees help care for injured firefighters.

He said with triple-digit temperatures expected, looking for heat-related illnesses is a priority.

"Confusion, heat cramps are some of the early onsets of dehydration, so we like to take care of those early and educate the firefighters on what they need to do to take care of themselves," said McCall.

Aside from Mountain Medics, Koby Johns said there is a paramedic and EMT team dedicated to each division of the fire location. That team travels to the fire line with crews to help treat injuries on scene.

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