Stephens Fire, east of Weed, California

Stephens Fire

Stephens Fire, February 24, 2014. USFS photo.

(Updated at 4:35 p.m. PT, February 26, 2015)

The U.S. Forest Service Wednesday night on Twitter said the Stephens Fire had grown by 50 acres, to 250 acres. The fire is 17 miles east of Weed, California. The Incident Commander has estimated that the 100 personnel on scene will have a fireline around it, meaning the fire is contained, by February 28, which is a revision from Wednesday’s estimate of March 2.

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(Originally published at 3:41 p.m. PT, February 25, 2015)

The Stephens Fire has burned about 200 acres in northern California, 17 miles east of Weed. It spread onto the Shasta-Trinity National Forest after escaping from a prescribed fire in Siskiyou County on private land.

According to the USFS Wednesday afternoon:

While the burned area has expanded outside the original planned prescribed area, positive effects to natural resources are being met and suppression forces are in place to limit additional spread.

Tuesday night strong winds were driving the fire, producing short-range spotting. On Wednesday the fire activity is expected to be moderate, according to  the USFS, with possible spread south toward Stephens Pass Road and north toward FS Road 43N04.

The Incident Commander estimates the 100 personnel on scene will have a fireline around it by March 2.

map Stephens Fire

Map showing the approximate location of the Stephens Fire at 11:14 p.m. PT February 24, 2015. Click to enlarge.

Stephens Fire

Stephens Fire, February 24, 2014. USFS photo.

Further to the south, on Thursday the National Park Service is planning to burn 60 acres of a 533-acre burn unit in the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park near the South Entrance.

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Time-lapse of prescribed fire in Cuyamaca State Park

Bob Eisele sent us these two time-lapse videos of a February 4, 2015 prescribed fire in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego County. He told us on Friday:

The area was abut 100 acres of hand cut brush (ceanothus palmeri) with logs and snags left from the 2003 Cedar Fire. The entire mountain burned in 2003 leaving no seed trees to restart the mixed conifer forest. Total ignition time was about four hours. The burn was conducted by the California State Parks in cooperation with CAL FIRE.

The area was planted this week with native conifers.

The video above is a time-lapse of a prescribed fire on Middle Peak in San Diego County, as seen from Cuyamaca Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, February 4, 2015. Credit for the video goes to California State Parks employees.

The video below was shot by a camera on Mt. Laguna, which automatically replaces the image of the sun with a black dot. The camera is provided by the University of San Diego HPWREN.

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Battle between timber company and federal prosecutors over Moonlight Fire becoming even more heated

The barbs, counter-charges, and accusations of “unethical conduct as a lawyer” continue to fly from both sides like burning embers lofted by a wildfire, about the 2007 Moonlight Fire that burned 65,000 acres (map), including 46,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in northern California.

CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service claimed a bulldozer operated by Sierra Pacific Industries was responsible for starting the fire. Three years ago the company agreed to pay $100 million to settle the case, but in the last several months they have sought to reverse the deal because of alleged misdeeds by investigators and prosecutors.

Below are excerpts from an article in the Sacramento Bee:

Federal prosecutors in Sacramento have launched a blistering new attack on Sierra Pacific Industries and its lawyers, accusing the timber giant of “deception” and “scandal mongering” in its efforts to reverse a $100 million settlement it agreed to pay over the 2007 Moonlight fire, which burned huge swaths of the Plumas and Lassen national forests.cases.
[…]
“The government contends Sierra Pacific’s efforts to overturn the settlement “lack integrity” and are based on false accusations, and that the company “only pretended to settle” the lawsuit it faced. “This is professional misconduct of the worst kind,” the government brief states.

Among the claims made by Sierra Pacific are allegations that a veteran assistant U.S. attorney, E. Robert Wright, was forced out of his lead role in the case after he refused to “engage in unethical conduct as a lawyer.” Wright filed a declaration for Sierra Pacific in which he said he was removed from the case and replaced by a prosecutor with no previous experience in wildland fire cases.
[…]
“They try to create the impression that Wright is a celebrated veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s office, who received nothing but praise for his work,” the government’s brief states. “But in fact, his work was of mediocre quality and it was for this reason the Moonlight fire case was assigned to another attorney at the pleading stage, before discovery commenced.”
“My comment is simply that we have officials who are supposed to be diligently and honestly representing the U.S. government who are actually lying in papers they are filing with the court, and making up stuff five years after the fact,” Wright said.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged Moonlight Fire.

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Photos of the Round Fire

Round Fire by Jerry Dodrill

These photos, some of the best nighttime fire photos I have ever seen, were taken by Jerry Dodrill, and are used here with his permission. They depict the first evening of the Round Fire, Friday, February 6, 2015, north of Bishop, California that burned 40 homes and 7,000 acres  Before Mr. Dodrill became a professional photographer, in the 1990s he was a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service on Stanislaus Crew 2 for three seasons.

Mr. Dodrill told us he had never seen fire behavior like he saw Friday. He wrote about it on his Wilderness Exposures blog, which has more photos of the fire:

A friend of mine who is on the local fire crew reported that they were burned over and all personnel had to run for their lives. Late in the evening I had a little time to break away to take some pictures of the fire, and just couldn’t believe what I saw. The scene was right out of hell, with fire burning every direction up and down Sherwin Grade. Flame lengths easily exceeded a hundred feet and ran up the slopes of Wheeler Crest faster than a speeding car.

Round Fire by Jerry Dodrill

Round Fire by Jerry Dodrill

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Van Dyke Fire, south of Bridgeport, California

(UPDATED at 7:52 p.m. PST, February 8, 2015)

Below is information provided by the U.S. Forest Service Sunday afternoon about the Van Dyke Fire on both sides of Highway 395 south of Bridgeport, California and north of Point Ranch.

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“U.S. Forest Service – Inyo National Forest
Van Dyke Fire Final Update

The Van Dyke Fire has been mapped at 450 acres and is 75% contained.

The fire is in grass and sage fuels and has received measurable moisture. More rain and snow is in the forecast in the next few days.

Fire crews are improving fireline today and mopping up lingering hotspots. Crews expect to fully contain the fire tomorrow morning.

Initial attack response was by local fire departments and the Humboldt-Tioyabe National Forest. Bridgeport and Lee Vining Fire Departments were instrumental during initial attack and helped prevent structure loss.

Highway 395 is opened and all evacuations have been lifted. Additionally, power service has been restored. Verizon cell service remains down at this time.

The SCE power sub-station received damage from both fire and wind from the storm; repair work on the station was completed last night.

Multiple agencies have responded to the fire including Bridgeport, Antelope Valley, Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, and June Lake Fire Departments, Mono County, CHP, Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, as well as Bureau of Land Management, Bishop Field Office and U.S. Forest Service (Humboldt-Tioyabe and Inyo National Forests).

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

This is the last update for the Van Dyke Fire unless there is something significant to report.”

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(UPDATED at 10:15 a.m. February 7, 2015)

According to an update from the U.S. Forest Service the Van Dyke Fire has burned about 305 acres on both sides of Highway 395 south of Bridgeport, California and north of Point Ranch.

The fire is burning in grass and sage. Light rain was falling on the fire Saturday morning and the winds have subsided. Fire crews plan to take advantage of these conditions for containment efforts today.

Initial attack response was by the Humboldt-Tioyabe National Forest, but the fire is also on a Bureau of Land Management response area.

All evacuations have been lifted. Residents of the Evans Track (south of the Bridgeport Ranger Station) had been previously evacuated.

Highway 395 has re-opened. Cell phone service and power are down at this time.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Incident Commander is calling it 30 percent contained.

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(Originally published at 7:40 p.m. PST, November 6, 2015)

The Van Dyke Fire (initially referred to as the Point Ranch Fire) is estimated to be 300 acres. The fire is burning south of Bridgeport, east of Highway 395, and north of Point Ranch.

Initial attack response was by the Humboldt-Tioyabe National Forest, but the fire is burning on Bureau of Land Management response area.

Homes are threatened. Residents of the Evans Track (south of the Bridgeport Ranger Station) have been evacuated. The Bridgeport Memorial Hall is open as a shelter.

The fire is burning in grass and sage. Sustained and gusting winds are making response difficult.

Multiple agencies have responded to the fire including Lee Vining, Mammoth Lakes, and June Lake Fire Departments, as well as Bureau of Land Management, Bishop Field Office and U.S. Forest Service (Humboldt-Tioyabe and Inyo National Forests).

Highway 395 remains closed between Bridgeport and Lee Vining. Additionally, cell phone service is power are down at this time.

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