CA: BTU or Butte Lightning Complex, July 10

The Butte lightning complex near Concow and Paradise, California, was moderately active during the night. It still has not crossed the West Branch of the Feather River as of 7 a.m. this morning, which would open the door to the fire moving into Paradise, but it burned intensely in places east of the river. The fire is still just east of Paradise, and about 12 miles north of Oroville. It burned through and around Concow, taking out about 50 houses. Evacuation information for Paradise can be found on the city’s web site. CalFire’s web site for the fire is still broken, due probably to not being able to handle the load.

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the latest perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams. Click on the map to see a larger version.

CA: Basin fire, July 10

The Basin fire near Big Sur is now 90,114 acres and is 41% contained.

South Side:
It is largely symbolic at this point, but the Basin fire has bumped up against the Indians fire. The fires met about a mile north of the fire line on the Rodeo Flats trail.

I am hearing that the fire burned intensely late yesterday near the remaining open line on the Rodeo Flats trail, just south of where the two fires met. There is a chance that the fire burned across the line and progressed 2 miles south almost to the Cook Springs campground near the Carrizo trail, but this is not confirmed. If this is true, it is going to significantly delay the containment of the fire on the south side. But there are secondary lines in this area that the firefighters can fall back to.

North side:
The fire did not spread a great deal on the north side with the exception of the firing the crews are accomplishing along the dozer line. Working to the east, they progressed about a mile past Devils Peak, getting into even rougher, more remote terrain.

East side:
There was no major fire movement on the east side, except for areas near Tassajara. The fire is approaching the road to Tassajara 1.6 miles north of the facility at Wildcat campground. It is also still spreading a mile to the west, and 1.4 miles to the south at Willow Springs campground.

The folks at Tassajara decided to evacuate yesterday, and it’s probably a good thing. At best, it will be extremely smoky there for a while… maybe a long while. At the worst, well, we don’t want to think about that right now.

East side update, July 10 @ 10:45 PT:
We received a call today from a Wildfire Today reader who said that 5 of the Tassajara folks are still there. We confirmed this on their web site. Apparently as the entire group of 19 drove out, they encountered a check point and were told that if they left, they would not be able to return, so five of them went back to Tassajara.

Someone who posted on Wildlandfire.com’s Hotlist Forum said:

In listening to scanner traffic the people at The Zen Center off Tassajara Road decided to leave as the fire approached from the north and west. This is presenting a problem for the crews on scene as the fire has become very established in the Church Creek Area. The East Basin (Air Attack) Diverted all the (air tankers) to this area to try to buy time for them to evacuate by vehicle. Fire has spotted half mile ahead presenting more problems. They have 2 MAFFS ships enroute also.

If the report from the forum is true, it sounds like they waited too long to evacuate, and all of the air tankers on the fire had to be diverted from their missions to cool the fire down near the road enough to allow them to drive through the fire area. I hope the remaining five will be OK at Tassajara. And I hope that the firefighters that had been using the air tankers didn’t have problems when they lost them to protect the people driving out on the road.

Thanks, caller, for the update.

Big Sur side:
The mandatory evacuation for the Big Sur valley has been lifted and a few businesses are beginning to open for the locals and firefighters. The valley is still only open to residents, but the agencies are re-evaluating the closure and there is hope that the public will be allowed into the area around the first of next week, but that decision has not yet been made. This is a real hardship on the businesses, who rely on the summer season for the majority of their income.

The firefighters:
The next 5-6 miles of the open line on the north side, firing from the dozer line, is going to be exceedingly difficult, tactically and logistically. The task these firefighters have been doing, and especially what they have done recently and will be doing over the next several days, is as difficult as it gets. It is very steep, remote, heavily vegetated country, loaded with poison oak.

I was on the El Cariso Hot Shots when we fought fire in the Big Sur area on the Molera fire in 1972. That memory is seared into my brain as one of the most challenging assignments I have ever experienced as a firefighter. We need to appreciate the work these crews are doing, and we need to find ways to thank them. They are putting out our fires as we sit comfortably at home in front of our computers.

Fire information:
The Los Padres National Forest has stopped putting fire updates on their web page, shrewdly deciding to put all of their eggs into the InciWeb basket. For a week or so, InciWeb was not able to handle the capacity and was out of service, then it worked for a couple of days, and this morning it is out again. Maybe it is just a temporary outage, but for now, there is no official fire information available on the Internet. Again.

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the latest perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams. Click on the map to see a larger version.


The map below was current at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

CA: BTU or Butte Lightning Complex

The Camp fire, part of the BTU complex east of Chico, CA near Paradise, continued to move slowly south on Wednesday. Strong down canyon winds were forecast for Wednesday night, prompting additional evacuations for Jarbo Gap, Yankee Hill and Big Bend.

This map, maintained by the Chico Enterprise Record newspaper, has a great deal of information, but we can’t vouch for it’s accuracy. But the CalFire web site is having problems due to very heavy visitation.

The size of the fire according to CalFire is 49,000 acres and it is 45% contained. Burning embers have been landing in Paradise and areas south of the fire during the day on Wednesday, according to our contact in the area.

The Thirtymile Fire– 7 years ago, Thursday

For a lot of reasons, this fire is going to be a part of the heritage of wildland firefighters for a long time.

The Thirty Mile Fire was first discovered during the evening of July 9, 2001. During the afternoon of July 10 high winds developed causing the Thirty Mile Fire in the Chewuch River Valley, north of Winthrop, WA to blow up and grow from approximately 5 acres to over 2500 acres within 2 ½ hours.

21 firefighters and 2 civilians were entrapped in a narrow canyon of the Chewuch River Valley. Fires shelters were deployed in an area surrounded by fire on all sides. Four firefighters were killed and another four firefighters and 2 civilians were injured.

Those killed were:

Tom L. Craven, 30, Ellensburg, WA;
Karen L. Fitzpatrick, 18, Yakima, WA;
Devin A. Weaver, 21, Yakima, WA;
Jessica L. Johnson, 19, Yakima, WA.

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Spend a few minutes on Thursday honoring these four firefighters.

Weather– hot and dry

It is going to be very hot and dry in California, the Great Basin, and western Colorado over the next couple of days. In California the temperatures have been approaching record highs. In the northern Sacramento valley today the highs will be 111-116 with the relative humidity at 7-12%. Red flag warnings are in effect for northern California, and sections of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho for high temperatures and very low humdities.

More fires than average?

At times it might seem like there have been an unusually high number of fires so far this year. The news is full of the fires in California, and smoke from the state has drifted east all the way to the Mississippi river. But other than Texas, Florida, and to an extent, North Carolina, Arizona and New Mexico, the rest of the country has been relatively quiet, fire wise. Much of the northwest, the Rockies, and northern Rockies had a wet winter and spring and are still green.

Nationally, to date there have been 46,367 fires which have burned 2,902,639 acres. The acres burned is actually below the 5-year average to date, which is 3,075,833. The 10-year average is 2,353,507. The number of fires to date is close to the 5- and 10-year averages.

Fire Summary (Five Day Trend) (courtesy of National Park Service)

Date

Wed

Thu

Mon

Tue

Wed

Day

7/2

7/3

7/7

7/8

7/9

Initial Attack Fires

282

335

223

274

161

New Large Fires

6

6

1

2

3

Large Fires Contained

5

5

3

3

1

Uncontained Large Fires

85

90

70

67

68


National Resource Commitments (Five Day Trend)

Date

Wed

Thu

Mon

Tue

Wed

Day

7/2

7/3

7/7

7/8

7/9

Area Command Teams

2

2

3

3

3

NIMO Teams

2

2

2

4

4

Type 1 Teams

15

15

14

14

15

Type 2 Teams

18

16

13

12

11

FUM Teams

0

1

1

1

1

Weather map, courtesy of Accuweather

CA: Basin Complex, July 9 update

Contrary to reports elsewhere, as of last night Big Sur’s Basin fire still had not reached the Indians fire, although undoubtedly it will in the very near future. The latest information shows a 1/2 mile gap between the two fires on the southeast side of the Basin fire north of the Rodeo Flats trail. The fire is burning intensely in this area and the two fires will probably merge within the next 24 hours.

Crews are firing the line downhill along the Rodeo Flats trail toward the Indians fire. This has been going very slowly for the last several days, but I expect they will have to complete this firing in the next day or two. Of course the Indians fire has been relatively cold for a while now, so the act of merging will have no effect on fire behavior, other than the Indians burned area serving as a barrier to the Basin fire.

South side
The burning operation down Dolan Ridge to the coast highway is complete

North side
The firing along the Old Coast Road is complete, and the firing on Mescal Ridge has progressed east beyond Bottchers Gap. The fire is burning intensely east of Bottchers Gap, and in the Pat Springs, Little Pines, and Uncle Sam Mountain areas. It is within a mile of the dozer line north of Little Pines, east of Devils Peak. The dozer line is downhill from the existing fire edge, so it will be burning more slowly as it approaches the line, but I imagine the firefighters have plans to fire this out in the near future. There are plans for an additional secondary dozer line north of the existing one east of Devis Peak, but hopefully it won’t have to be used.

East side
The fire is burning intensely:

  • west of the Carmel River drainage south of Uncle Sam Mountain,
  • in two areas 1.5 to 2 miles northwest and southwest of Tassajara,
  • and a large area west of the Indians fire north of the Rodeo Flats Trail.

The map was current as of 1900 Tuesday night. Click on it to see a larger version.