Oregon: 36 Pit Fire

(UPDATED at 10:25 a.m. PDT, September 18, 2014)

Investigators have determined that target shooting was the cause of the fire. The fire has burned 4,101 acres and the incident management team is calling it 30 percent contained.


(Originally published at 8:37 p.m. PDT September 15, 2014)

The 36 Pit Fire 10 miles southeast of Estacada along highway 224 in Oregon has burned 2,300 acres since it started on September 13. The area is under a Red Flag Warning and evacuations are under way.

The description of the video:

Here is some raw video of the why OR 224 is closed due to the 36 Pit Wildfire burning right along the highway. Even the guardrail is on fire. The wildfire is also causing trees to fall and rocks to slide into the highway. The smoke is so thick in some spots you can’t even see the road ahead. OR 224 will remain closed for the safety of travelers and those fighting the wildfire.

More information is at InciWeb.


Over 100 structures damaged or destroyed in Boles Fire at Weed, California

(UPDATE at 11:10 a.m. PDT, September 17, 2014)

CAL FIRE has revised upward the number of structures that were damaged or destroyed in the Boles Fire that devastated much of the small town of Weed in northern California, now saying 150 structures have been affected. They are calling the 375-acre fire 25 percent contained.

Wednesday morning the Angel Valley and Hoy Road areas were still under evacuation orders. Firefighting resources assigned include 969 personnel, 72 engines, 20 hand crews, and 5 helicopters.

A reward of “up to $10,000″ has been offered for anyone providing information about how the fire started.


(UPDATE at 3:35 p.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

Boles Fire damage

An aerial view of the effects of the Boles Fire. CAL FIRE photo. (click to enlarge)


(UPDATED at 8:30 a.m. PDT, September 16, 2014)

CAL FIRE is still going with the estimate of “over 100 structures damaged or destroyed” in the Boles Fire in the northern California town of Weed. Three of the homes belonged to firefighters. The 375-acre fire is listed at 20 percent containment and evacuations are still in place affecting 2,000 people in the communities of Weed, Carrick, and Lake Shastina.

When the fire started south of Weed Monday afternoon it was pushed by a strong southeast wind gusting over 40 mph. Later in the day the wind slowed, making it possible for firefighters to stop the forward spread of the fire around sunset.

The fire is being managed by CAL FIRE, so the chances are we will not see a map of the fire any time soon.


(UPDATED at 8:25 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant said at about 8 p.m. that the fire had damaged or destroyed over 100 structures, and had burned about 300 acres. (Update at 9 p.m.: 350 acres and 15 percent contained.)


(Originally published at 5:31 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014; updated at 5:56 p.m.)

Boles Fire

The Boles Fire, looking at Weed, CA from the south. KRCR7 photo.

On the internet feed that relays radio traffic from a new fire that broke out at about 1:38 p.m. PDT on Monday, firefighters can be heard estimating that 75 and later 100 structures have been damaged or destroyed in the Boles Fire at Weed in northern California. Pushed by a strong southeast wind at 26 mph gusting at more than 40 mph, the fire has crossed both Interstate 5 and Highway 97, requiring the closure of both highways. There are reports that there is fire in the attic of a school in Weed, as well as structures at a lumber mill. Evacuations are occurring in several areas.

Boles fire

Boles fire, Caltrans cam at I-5 and US 97.

Weed is 58 miles north of Redding, California and 66 miles south of Medford, Oregon. Two DC-10 air tankers have been ordered along with several other aircraft. The DC-10s will probably reload at Medford; Redding also has an air tanker base. With the King Fire near Placerville spreading rapidly, there will likely be competition for firefighting resources.

The area is under a Red Flag Warning until 9 p.m. Monday for strong winds and low relative humidity. The forecast through Tuesday evening predicts winds of 25 mph gusting to 44 mph, gradually decreasing to 14 mph with 23 mph gusts.

In addition to the dozens of engines and water tenders previously ordered, at 5:12 p.m. PDT firefighters placed an order for 20 additional water tenders. With the electricity shut off, obtaining water from traditional sources could be problematic.

At about 5:10 p.m. on Monday, Air Attack said they have a retardant line around about 60 percent of the fire, and most of it is holding, But in other areas firefighters are reporting they are making progress on spot fires, but “we are getting hundreds of them”.

The Incident Commander estimated at about 5:40 p.m. that the fire was 15 percent contained.


Smoke maps, September 15, 2014

Smoke map

Smoke map, northern California, 9-15-2014

Here are two maps showing the distribution of smoke from wildfires. The one above of northern California is from NOAA, and I believe it is a forecast, looking ahead several hours and takes into account the major expansion of the King Fire east of Placerville Monday afternoon, which is the larger plume.

The map below is from Weatherunderground, showing the western United States.

Smoke map western US

Smoke map, western US. Weatherunderground.


Fire shelter deployment on the King Fire

(UPDATED at 3:21 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant sent this tweet at 2:53 p.m. PDT:

This afternoon a CAL FIRE captain & inmate crew deployed their shelters on #KingFire (El Dorado Co.) All are accounted, no reported injuries

Here is another tweet sent by Mr. Berlant:


(UPDATED at 2:59 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

All of the firefighters are in helicopters, en route to an airport.


(UPDATED at 2:52 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The 12 firefighters who deployed fire shelters and then ran and walked a long distance to escape from the King Fire 11 miles east of Placerville, California, have reached the landing zone where a helicopter will extract them.


(UPDATED at 2:42 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The drinking water was delivered to the 12 escaping firefighters at the top of the hill at  2:33 p.m. (see the 3-D map below).  From there they still have to hike downhill and then on flat ground 1,000 to 2,000 yards to the landing zone. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) overhead is in constant contact with the firefighters, giving them directions as they hike.

Extraction route

The pointer is at the location where the water for the escaping firefighters will be dropped off. (The map looks to the east.) The firefighters from that point will hike downhill to the extraction point. (click to enlarge)


(UPDATED at 2:23 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The firefighters are still hiking to a point where a helicopter can land so that they can be extracted. They have to hike uphill and then down the other side. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) coordinating the rescue effort estimates they will reach the landing zone at approximately 2:35 p.m. PDT. The firefighters have run out of drinking water (or previously dumped all of their gear so they could run faster) and are having some heat-related problems, including cramping. A helicopter has been instructed to deliver, presumably by sling load, several cases of drinking water to the firefighters before they reach the extraction point.

At least one helicopter is being rigged with a hoist in case that is needed to extract them from a point where a ship can’t land.

Three ambulances have been ordered to be at the airport where the helicopters will drop off the firefighters.


(UPDATED at 1:50 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The helicopter pilot escorting the 12 firefighters on their escape route told them they were safe at 1:48 p.m. “You guys are looking real good right now”, one of the pilots said. There was talk about getting a large helicopter to drop some water for dust abatement so that another ship could land and pick them up.


(Originally posted at 1:27 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014; updated at 1:32 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2015)

At about 1 p.m. PDT on Monday there was a fire shelter deployment on the King Fire, which is burning 11 miles east of Placerville, California north of the community of Pollock Pines. In listening to the radio traffic, a Division Supervisor talking to Air Attack said a Task Force was overrun by fire, they were in a safety zone, but they were safe. He requested air support, but there was too much smoke for fixed wing air tankers to get in to the area.

Air Attack, as of 1:15 p.m. PDT was checking to see if helicopters could work the area, but when the incident unfolded they were all on the ground getting fuel. Later at about 1:25 p.m. PDT at least one helicopter with water was over the incident watching firefighters running, carrying fire shelters. The pilot was holding on to his water in case there was a major need for it later. He was giving the firefighters directions, saying “keep moving”.

One alternative considered was to extract the firefighters using a water bucket carried by a helicopter.

Someone else on the fire said they had five vehicles that were available to rescue the trapped firefighters, but the road to the area had just been overrun by a very intense fire and they were advised by a pilot to not try it.

There was also a report on the radio of a dozer that burned up, but there was “accountability for the operator”.

Our regular coverage of the King Fire.


California: Courtney Fire

Map Courtney Fire

Map showing the approximate location of the Courtney Fire

The Courtney Fire three miles southeast of Oakhurst, California is not one of the largest wildfires going in California or Oregon having burned 320 acres, but it has been one of the most destructive. CAL FIRE reports that 21 structures have been damaged or destroyed.

Firefighters are experiencing extreme fire behavior conditions due to drought and low fuel moisture.