Shirley Fire, near Lake Isabella, California

(Information about the Way Fire that started August 18, 2014 north of Highway 155 near Wofford Heights and Kernville, can be found HERE. The article below is about the Shirley Fire, of June, 2014))

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(UPDATE at 8:47 a.m. PT, June 17, 2014)

Map of the Shirley Fire
3D Map of the Shirley Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9:30 p.m. PT June 16. The yellow line is about 24 hours earlier.

Below is an update on the Shirley fire near Wofford Heights, California, provided by the Incident Management Team at about 8:30 a.m. PT Tuesday:

Excellent progress made over the previous 24 hours on all areas of the fire perimeter has enabled firefighters to raise containment to 75%. Burning operations used yesterday to widen lines in Division Y, held throughout the night. A wind advisory issued for the Kern Valley and will remain in place until Tuesday afternoon, wind speeds are expected to reach up to 45 MPH. Crews will be cautious of the possibility of blowing embers causing spot fires outside the line as they work to improve containment. Safety remains a concern as steep rocky terrain, tree snags and rolling material from the fire are in all areas of the fire. Last nights community meeting was attended by approximately 120 people and was streamed live to another 1100 viewers and can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf4hf0WRj8g

Today, crews will continue to hold and improve containment lines and mop up interior to the perimeter. Demobilization of resources will begin today as firefighters return home to prepare and train for the additional wildland fires to come.

The official size is 2,646 acres.

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(UPDATE at 9 p.m. PT, June 16, 2014)

A community meeting for the Shirley Fire was broadcast live on YouTube Monday night. It started at 7 p.m., and got off to a slow start with a long speech from the Kern County Fire Chief.

Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley came on and said they have a line around the entire fire but they are not calling it contained yet.

They said the fire has burned 2,646 acres. The Incident Management Team is calling it 75 percent contained. All evacuations for the fire have been lifted.

Incident Commander Pincha-Tulley in attempting to answer a question about where the three homes that burned were located, said she knew the general area where the losses occurred, but not being from the area, she did not know how to describe the general location to the audience. She said she was not being flippant.

Broadcasting the community meeting live on YouTube was a great idea, at least in concept. On our end, there were quite a few interruptions in the video with a lot of stopping and buffering, while we watched the circle of dots go around and around. Viewers could leave live comments on the website, and many others confirmed that they too were affected by the interruptions in the video.

It was odd that there was no organized attempt to provide a general briefing to the community members about the status of the fire. After they opened it up to questions, one of them, about 30 or 40 minutes into the meeting, was how many acres had burned and how much of the fire was contained. And no one was prepared to answer a question from the audience of where the three burned homes were located.

There may be a recording of the video available later on YouTube, and hopefully it won’t have all of the buffering interruptions. If so we will add the link to it here.

UPDATE at 9:20 p.m. PT, June 16, 2014: A recording of the meeting can be seen on YouTube. In the video, the meeting actually starts at about 48:30. After preliminary information from the host and the Kern County Fire Chief, the meat of the meeting begins at 1:02:33 when the local USFS District Ranger makes a brief comment just before the Incident Commander comes on.

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(UPDATE at 7:42 a.m. PT, June 16, 2014)

Map Shirley Fire 930 pm June 15
Map of the Shirley Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9:30 p.m. June 15, 2014. The yellow line is from about 24 hours earlier. (click to enlarge)

The Shirley Fire west of Wofford Heights was very active on Sunday, growing by over 1,000 acres primarily on the north side but it also expanded on the southeast side. This brings the total area burned to 2,600 acres according to the map and information we have received, but the Pincha-Tulley Type 1 Incident Management Team reported at 8 a.m. Monday that the fire had only burned 2,200 acres. They are calling it 10 percent contained. New information from the Team has been rather sparse, but the National Interagency Fire Center reports that two structures have been destroyed. It is unknown if they were residences or outbuildings.

The fire is being fought by 1,176 personnel, with 73 engines, 4 helicopters, and 29 crews at a cost so far of $4.2 million. Air tankers, including one of the DC-10s flying out of Santa Maria, also were busy over the fire on Sunday. Night-flying helicopters from the Kern County Fire Department have also been used after sunset when the other aircraft are grounded.

As the fire spreads to the east it moves from conifers above 5,000 feet to lighter vegetation below 4,000 feet. In the lower elevations the fuels transition to brush and grass, conditions under which the air tankers and helicopters working with the firefighters on the ground can be more effective.

On Sunday the firefighters were faced with winds gusting up to 27 mph. The forecast for Monday is somewhat better, but not great, calling for 5 to 9 mph winds out of the west in the morning, becoming stronger by late afternoon at 15 mph gusting to 21 from the west and northwest.

The cameraman in the above photo is wearing an interesting combination of clothing — what appears to be a fire resistant Nomex shirt or jacket, and shorts.

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(UPDATE at 4:37 p.m. PT, June 15, 2014)

Shirley Fire
Shirley Fire as seen from Breckenridge 4:16 p.m. PT June 15, 2014.

The Shirley Fire southwest of Kernville and west of Wofford Heights, California was very active Sunday afternoon, pushed by west and west-northwest winds gusting up to 26 mph. Below is an update from the Kern County Fire Department at 1:30 p.m.:

Night operations with helicopters continued through last night. The VLAT, very large air tanker, is in use this afternoon as well as other air assets. Last night, in cooperation with fire operations, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office initiated evacuations in the following areas: Pala Ranches, Juniper Highlands, Old State Road, all residences between Old State Rd and Evans Rd on Hwy 155. An evacuation advisory was also issued for Alta Sierra 500 residences fall within the evacuation area.

 

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(UPDATE at 1:56 p.m. PT, June 15, 2014)

DC-10 dropping on Shirley Fire
DC-10 dropping on the Shirley Fire. Photo by Christie.
Map of Shirley Fire
Map of Shirley Fire at 10 p.m. June 14, 2014.

The map of the Shirley Fire southwest of Kernville and west of Wofford Heights, California shows that at 10 p.m. Saturday night it had burned 1,600 acres. The Incident Management Team said it was 1,800 acres and 10 percent contained at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Kern County Fire Department announced at midnight, very early Sunday morning that areas being evacuated include Old State Road to Evans Road and Alta Sierra to Rancheria Road. The Kern County Red Cross and Kern County Human Services has opened a shelter at the Lake Isabella Senior Center – 6405 Lake Isabella Blvd. in Lake Isabella. There will be representatives from Kern County Animal Control present to assist families with small and large pets and animals. Kern County Fire Department helicopters 407 and 408 are making water drops at night to protect structures and support ground crews. On Sunday firefighters will be battling strong 16 mph northwest winds gusting up to 24 according to a forecast, with a temperature of 82 degrees, and a relative humidity in the lower teens. Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. the wind was from the west at 12 to 14 mph with gusts up to 24.

Shirley Fire
Shirley Fire as seen from Breckenridge at 8:12 a.m. June 15, 2014.

 

Map, east side of the Shirley Fire
Map, east side of the Shirley Fire at 10 p.m. June 14, 2014. (click to enlarge)

Below is a 3-D map of the perimeter of the Shirley Fire at 10 p.m. June 14, 2014.

3D Map Shirley Fire
3-D Map of the Shirley Fire, 10 p.m. June 14, 2014

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(UPDATE at 10:20 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014)

The Incident Management Team distributed the following information at about 8:40 p.m. Saturday:

The Shirley Fire has grown to 810 acres and is at 5% containment. The fire is currently the most active in the Rattlesnake Creek area, about 1 mile southwest of Wofford Heights. Flames are visible from Wofford Heights and several calls have been received from concerned residents. It is important to note that there are currently no evacuations in the area of Wofford Heights. This being the case, preparedness should always be a priority when living in the wild land interface and residents are encouraged to be prepared in the event that evacuation should become necessary. If this happens, residents living in the affected area will be notified via Reverse 911 by the Kern County Office of Emergency Services. Smoke will continue to be an issue in the area and residents who may suffer adverse health effects due to smoke are encouraged check with your health care provider.

Jeanne Pincha-Tulley’s Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire at 6 p.m on Saturday.

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(UPDATED at 6:37 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014)

Shirley Fire from Breckenridge
Shirley Fire as seen from Breckenridge at 6:16 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014

**** (UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014) Advisory or precautionary notices of evacuation have been issued for some areas near the Shirley Fire near Lake Isabella, California. It is not yet an actual order to evacuate.

Below is an updated map of the Shirley Fire, showing heat detected by a satellite at 2:39 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014.

Map of Shirley Fire
Map of the Shirley Fire at 2:39 p.m. PT, June 14, 2014. The squares represent heat detected by a satellite. Their locations are accurate to within a mile or so.

 

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(Originally published at 8:56 a.m. PT, June 14, 2014; updated at 1:14 p.m. June 14, 2014))

Shirley Fire
The Shirley Fire, as seen from Breckenridge at 8:11 a.m. PT, June 14, 2014

A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered for the Shirley Fire which started late Friday afternoon on the Sequoia National Forest about 5 miles northwest of Lake Isabella in California, 2 miles south of the community of Alta Sierra. Jeanne Pincha-Tulley’s team will inbrief at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Last August the same team was on the Shirley Complex which was also on the Sequoia NF.

Kern County Fire Department announced at 1 p.m. that the fire has burned 500 acres. There was an unconfirmed report on Twitter at about 1:30 p.m. that the fire activity had increased substantially and air attack ordered a Very Large Air Tanker (T-910) and six medium air tankers.

map Shirley Fire
Map showing the location of the Shirley Fire. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 4:35 a.m. PT, June 14, 2014.

The fire can be seen from the Breckenridge #3 web camera. Another web camera is at Wofford Heights.

In the hours after the fire started, the Wofford Heights weather station two miles northeast of the fire recorded winds gusting up to 21 to 25 mph with a low relative humidity that afternoon of 16 percent. The Saturday forecast for an area 1,000 feet lower than the fire calls for a high temperature around 80, relative humidity of 10 percent, and calmer winds out of the south and later the west at 6 to 8 mph.

We will update this article as more information is available.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

32 thoughts on “Shirley Fire, near Lake Isabella, California”

  1. Wow Bill,

    I live in Alta Sierra full time and the information your giving is great.

    Thank you

    Mark

  2. I haven’t looked at the fire in awhile, but around noon it looked like 4 federal, 2 state, and 1 VLAT airtankers… along with multiple type 1 and type 2 helos assigned.

  3. Does anyone know Adela Brown of Wofford Heights. I can’t find if she had to leave or what.

    1. As of this morning it has not got to Wagy Flat yet. Is close though. I have property up there and my cousin lives up in Lake Isabella and know the area very well. She has been keeping me posted. If winds don’t change Wagy should be ok.

  4. From the fire talk, I have heard that the fire will make it to Kernville. It is located in a steep area and it is pushing downhill hard tonight. It is now only 5% contained.

  5. Concerned about Paul and Megan Zelanka in Wofford Heights. If you know them please tell them we are thinking of them and hoping everyone of Wofford Heights are ok.

      1. PS. the WU map has a search feature, so you can search, for example, for wagy flat and the marker shows where it is in relation to the fire. You can see by the grey-to-black smoke plume indicator which way the wind is blowing.

  6. How close is the fire to Alta Sierra? We have relatives that own a cabin up there. Is Alta Sierra being evacuated?
    Thanks

    1. My grandparents have a cabin in Alta Sierra. They were under voluntary evacuation orders yesterday. They left due to smoke more than anything else. However if you leave they are not letting anyone back up 155 until it is a clear.

  7. If the fire runs down to Kernville and it’s not out, what direction will it travel. Will it travel North along the Kern River, any chance it will reach Johnsondale Bridge?

  8. T-48 working this fire had a incident upon landing last night. Crew is ok. Aircraft is heavily damaged.

    1. Was this at Porterville or Fox? We watched them fly Sat. out of PTV along with T-44, T-01, and 2 Cal Fire S-2’s.

  9. Lived in Tehachapi during late 50’s to mid 60’s and used to take Caliente-Bodfish road to go fish at Isabella…wondering if “Lions Trail” is still open and in what condition its in…..

  10. The Lions Trail is a loooong ways from this. Hwy 155 over Greenhorn Summit, down Evans Grade to Wofford Heights is closed. Hwy 155 from Wofford Heights to the town of Lake Isabella where it connects with Hwy 178 is open at this time.

  11. I’m in pala ranches at the back of the community on the BLM National Forest boundary.they straydoll holding the fire line about a half mile to the west of pala ranchesi at the top of the ridge around 4700 feet…i am at 4000. They are doing a good job up there because it hasn’t come down the hill as iong as the wind doesn’t pick up. They cut a bulldozer fireline in back of the ranches community on the National Forest line so that should help a little bit no prob make the final stand there if it does

  12. Just had the opportunity to watch the Shirley Fire community meeting live-streamed on YouTube. Really a great resource. I hope this becomes commonplace with all large incidents.

  13. Coming up to camp this thursday to Headquarters is campground still open and is fire heading that direction or away from the Kernville area ?

  14. Is there a evacuation order for
    wofford Heights? Areas around Calgery Drive? Or Black Canyon Trail?

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