KLAMATH FALLS — Klamath Community College has been a hive of wildland firefighter activity this week as it is serving as the operations staging grounds for fire crews battling the Golden Fire in eastern Klamath County, which started Saturday, July 22.

Daily briefings with regional and statewide officials from fire teams, government agencies, and politicians, a bevy of firefighting equipment from across the state, and firefighter tents set up on campus lawns have become the norm as the battle to curtail the blaze north of Bonanza continues.

Approximately 635 personnel were working on the 2,112-acre Golden Fire as of Wednesday, with an estimated 43 primary structure and 43 outbuildings being destroyed pending further damage assessment, according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal. 

This is not the first time KCC has served as staging grounds for emergency responders, with its prime location at the crossroads of two major highways and ample acreage making it ideal to host emergency crews when necessary. Recent expansion of KCC facilities with the addition of the Apprenticeship Center, a multi-purpose trade skills training facility that opened in March, has been converted to temporary headquarters for the ongoing Golden Fire operations activities. Its placement is fitting, as the Apprenticeship Center is training central for KCC’s Wildland and Structural Fire Science programs.

Further establishing the college as prime location for emergency response teams during an incident, an Oregon Department of Energy grant project will expand renewable energy generation and electrical storage capacity on the KCC campus.

“Klamath Community College has and will continue to serve as a base of operations in times of emergency when we are called upon to lend support,” said Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, KCC President. “We are proud to not only be supporting these firefighters in their duty to protect our communities, but also actively training the next generation of wildland and structural firefighters to benefit our region.”

This week, fire crews, administrators, and heavy equipment are rotating between the site of the fire and KCC for rest, food, and operations planning. Participating crews working on the fire include teams that have traveled from nine Oregon counties to assist. The fire response teams are managed by a unified command under the direction of the

Oregon State Fire Marshal and Oregon Department of Forestry.

According to a Wednesday morning briefing at KCC, incident management teams had secured fire lines and were planning to depart from KCC by Thursday. While fire crews continue to mop up operations, teams are already on site to restore electricity and fiber optic line services to the affected areas.

“The facilities provided were excellent, KCC opened up multiple buildings for us; having space and IT structure has made things really easy for us,” said Craig Pettinger, Deputy Incident Commander for Oregon Department of Forestry. “The whole community has been very supportive, it has been fantastic cooperation.”