Lightning-caused fires spread during hot California weather

Northern California fires

Northern California fires Saturday morning, August 2, 2014. The red icons represent heat that was detected by a satellite over the last 24 hours. (Click to enlarge.)

Firefighters in northern California are battling fires that were started after almost 1,000 lightning strikes hammered the area this week. High temperatures that reached 108 degrees in Redding on Friday contributed to some of the significant spread of the fires.

Brief descriptions of some of the fires submitted by fire managers included words and phrases like “extreme fire behavior with wind-driven runs and long-range spotting”; “running with torching and long-range spotting”; “running with torching and crowning”; “crowning”; “active fire behavior with crowning”; and”structures threatened”.

Bald and Day Fires

Bald Fire with the Day Fire in the background. July 31, 2014. InciWeb photo.

Some of the larger and more active fires in northern California:

  • Day Fire, 12 miles north of McArthur, evacuations in effect, 12,500 acres.
  • Bald Fire, 9 miles northeast of Hat Creek, evacuations in effect, 17,977 acres.
  • Eiler Fire, 6 miles northwest of Old Station; evacuations in effect; the fire crossed Highway 89, which is now closed; 6,932 acres.
  • White Fire, (part of the July Complex) 7 miles southeast of Sawyers Bar, 2,500 acres.
  • Beaver Complex, 18 mile southeast of Ashland, Oregon. Most of this complex is the 11,524-acre Oregon Gulch Fire that burned across the Oregon/California border. It grew by 6,623 acres on Friday.

In central California on the Sierra National Forest 18 miles east of Oakhurst, the French Fire has burned 11,466 acres in steep, rugged terrain. The 4,689-acre El Portal Fire outside Yosemite Valley continues to spread to the north approaching Highway 120.

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Updated: National Guard air tankers and helicopters activated to fight wildfires in California

California National Guard helicopters

File photo of California National Guard helicopters in 2013. Photo by Robert Martinez.

(Update: the two C-130J Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) air tankers at the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands California, MAFFS #4 and #6, are also being activated today. Initially they will be working out of McClellan Air Field near Sacramento. Two MAFFS from Cheyenne, Wyoming were activated a week or two ago and have mostly been based at Boise, Idaho.)

With several large wildfires burning in northern and central California, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has tasked the California National Guard (CNG) to activate helicopter units to assist local, state and federal fire agencies.

The helicopters are a combination of 14 UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and three LUH-72 Lakota helicopters. The crews and assets from the California Army National Guard were activated under the direction of Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin at the request of Cal OES on behalf of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

The CNG helicopters and crews, which were deployed from around the state, will launch from Mather Army Aviation Support Facility and other locations to support CAL FIRE in battling wildfires across Northern California. The Black Hawks and Chinooks are equipped respectively with 660-gallon and 2000-gallon water buckets to fight the flames. The Black Hawks also are capable of functioning in a medevac capacity as well, with an onboard hoist for extracting injured personnel from rugged terrain. The Lakota will serve as an observation platform, capable of streaming near real-time video and thermal imagery of the fires to incident commanders on the ground.

The CNG helicopter crews will be working in coordination with the CAL FIRE and local firefighting crews in accordance with the Statewide Mutual Aid System that cuts across military, state and regional levels.

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Wildfire potential, August through November

The Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center has issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August through November, 2014.

The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the eleven Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit. If their predictions are accurate, firefighters could be busy in Washington, Oregon, and California.

August

Wildfire potential for August, 2014

  • Above normal fire potential will continue across much of the West Coast states. Southwestern Puerto Rico has been unusually dry this summer and has above normal fire potential.
  • Fire potential will return to normal across portions of the Northern Rockies and Rocky Mountain Areas.
  • Below normal fire potential is expected for western Oklahoma, western Texas, southeastern New Mexico and much of the coastal Southeast.

September

Wildfire potential for September, 2014

  • Above normal fire potential will persist across the western states through September with fire potential returning to normal over eastern portions of Northern California and Northwest by late September.
  • Below normal fire potential will continue over the southern Plains, the mid-Mississippi Valley and part of the Southeast. Hawaii will remain below normal potent.

October and November

Wildfire potential for October-November, 2014

  • Above normal fire potential will remain over southern California through the fall while Northern California, Oregon and Washington return to normal, essentially ending their significant fire season.
  • Below normal fire potential will continue across the southern U.S. and the mid-Mississippi and Tennessee Valleys. Hawaii will also remain below normal.
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Oregon Gulch fire burns across OR/CA border

(UPDATED at 10:40 a.m. PDT, August 1, 2014)

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(Originally published at 9:48 PDT, August 1, 2014)

Oregon Gulch Fire

Oregon Gulch Fire, August 31. Photo by Don Hall.

The Oregon Gulch Fire, 18 mile southeast of Ashland, Oregon, was extremely active on Thursday, burning across the California-Oregon border.  It is part of the Beaver Complex of fires that started July 30 from lightning. The complex also includes the Salt Creek Fire.

The Oregon Gulch Fire had only burned 100 acres Thursday morning, but by Friday morning it had grown to about 7,500 acres in or near the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Evacuations are taking place in the area. An Oregon Department of Forestry incident management team has been dispatched.

On Thursday morning more than 40 new fires had been reported in the previous 24 hours in Oregon. Almost 500,000 acres are burning in the state.

Several other large fires are burning in northern California:

  • Day: 4,500 acres,12 miles north of McArthur. Numerous residences are threatened and evacuations are in effect.
  • H-1 Bald: 3,100 acres, 9 miles northeast of Hat Creek. Residences are threatened.
  • White: 1,000 acres, seven miles southeast of Sawyers Bar. Residences are threatened.
  • Log: 130 acres, 8 miles west of Greenview.
  • KNF Beaver: 400 acres, 9 miles northeast of Horse Creek.
Northern California fires

Northern California and southern Oregon fires, Friday morning, August 1, 2014. (Click to enlarge.)

Oregon Gulch Fire

Oregon Gulch Fire, with another, much smaller, fire in the foreground. Photo by Joseph.

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