Wildfire briefing, August 31, 2014

Happy Camp Complex InciWeb photo

Happy Camp Complex Fire. InciWeb photo (undated & uncredited).

Happy Camp Complex

The Happy Camp Complex of fires in a remote area of northwestern California continued to chew up additional acres on Saturday, though at a somewhat slower rate than the previous two days. Now mapped at 62,626 acres, a 24-hour increase of 4,904 acres, it has reached Highway 96 near the small community of Seiad Valley. Several areas are under a mandatory evacuation order affecting 250 homes, and approximately 695 homes are threatened. The fire is being fought by 2,116 personnel, 52 crews, 137 engines, 19 helicopters and 18 dozers. The incident management team is calling it 15 percent contained.

The fire is burning in an area infamous for inversions that trap wildfire smoke, at times making it difficult for firefighting aircraft to fly, and firefighters and residents to breathe.

More information about the Happy Camp Complex of fires.

Uncredited photos on InciWeb

It is unfortunate that we don’t know who took the excellent photo posted above. Public Information personnel posting photos on InciWeb REALLY need to provide at least four pieces of information about each photo: 1) photographer’s name, 2) date taken, 3) location, and 4) a description.

Dust from wildfire causes traffic problems

Dust being blown off a recent wildfire close to Interstate 90 near Vantage, Washington resulted in a 20-mile stretch of the highway being closed on Thursday and Friday.

Fifteen cars and nine tractor-trailers collided in the area on Thursday, leaving nearly a dozen people injured and causing a pileup that snarled traffic on the main route across Washington state, authorities said. According to Trooper Darren Wright, it’s not yet known how the pileup started.

A third DC-10 joins the fleet

Tankers 910, 911, 912 at Merced

Tankers 910, 911, and 912 at Castle Airport, August 30, 2014. Photo by 10 Tanker.

A third DC-10 jumbo jet has been converted into an air tanker. 10 Tanker Air Carrier announced Saturday that Tanker 912 has been fully certified and has joined the other two DC-10s temporarily based at Castle Airport near Merced, California.

Report released on CL-415 accident

A report has been released on the CL-415 air tanker accident that occurred on Moosehead Lake in Newfoundland and Labrador July 3, 2013. Details are at Fire Aviation.


California: Happy Camp Complex of fires

(UPDATED at 11:08 a.m. MDT, August 30, 2014)

Pyrocumulus cloud over the Happy Camp Complex of fires, August 28, 2014

Pyrocumulus cloud over the Happy Camp Complex of fires, August 28, 2014. Photo by Kari Greer.

The growth of the Happy Camp Complex Fire on Friday was similar to the day before. Continued spread to the northeast added another 13,000 acres and brought the 57,722-acre fire to the banks of the Klamath River at the community of Seiad Valley. Exhibiting intense fire behavior it traveled north approximately three quarters of a mile up the Grider Creek drainage below a pyrocumulus cloud that formed above the large column of smoke.

The mandatory evacuations from Friday remain in effect. Communities that are threatened by the fire include Happy Camp, Elk Creek, Seiad Valley, Hamburg, Kelsey Creek and Scott Bar. Structure protection groups are placed in strategic locations to assist in protecting homes and property should the fire move into these areas.

Click on the maps of the Happy Camp Complex below to see slightly larger versions.

Map Happy Camp Cmplx

Map of the Happy Camp Complex of fires at 12:05 a.m. MDT, 8-30-2014.

3-D Map Happy Camp Cmplx

3-D Map of the Happy Camp Complex of fires at 12:05 a.m. MDT, 8-30-2014.


(Originally published at 10:06 a.m. MDT, August 29, 2014)

An MD-87 drops on the Happy Camp Complex

An MD-87 drops on the Happy Camp Complex. InciWeb photo.

The Happy Camp Complex of fires grew by 12,000 acres on Thursday, requiring additional mandatory evacuations in the Seiad Valley area, including:

  • Scott Valley Road from Bridge Flat to the intersection of Hwy. 96.
  • All areas south of Hwy. 96 between Scott River Road and Grider Creek.
  • All areas south of Hwy. 96 from Seiad Valley down river to Kade Summit.

Other areas are under an evacuation advisory.

On Thursday the two largest and most active fires in the Complex, the Faulkstein and Frying Pan Fires, spread rapidly on the east side aided by long-range spotting. The fires grew together when an inversion broke, followed by a west wind that pushed the fire to the northeast. Burning embers were carried a mile and a half in front of the fire.

As you can see on the maps below, the fire is 38 miles southwest of Medford, Oregon and less than two miles from Seiad Valley, California on Highway 96.
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Wildfire near Weaverville slowed by prescribed fire

Oregon Fire

The spread of a fire with an odd name, the Oregon Fire at Weaverville, California, was slowed with the help of a prescribed fire completed eight months earlier. The fire, 30 miles west of Redding, was aggressively attacked soon after it was reported at 4:53 p.m. PDT on August 24 with 16 engines, 9 hand crews, 5 helicopters, 3 dozers, and 9 air tankers, including both DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers, each carrying 11,900 gallons of fire retardant.

The combination of these suppression forces and the fact that the head of the fire burned up against the Five Cent prescribed fire from November, 2013 kept the number of structures burned to only one, even though it was burning in the wildland-urban interface of Weaverville. The fire spotted across the prescribed fire, burning an additional 18 acres before it was stopped.

As of August 28, the fire is listed at 580 acres with 95 percent containment.

Tim Ritchely contributed the above map (we added the text in white and yellow as well as the arrows). He told us:

Flame lengths were observed at 6+ feet in the oak woodland as the fire approached the Five Cent Rx with a rate of spread exceeding 20 chains per hour and then dropped immediately to the ground upon entering the treated areas and basically halted in its tracks… The DC-10s and BA-146 were both used effectively at keeping the fire north of the structures from the ignition point. Helicopters were used east of Weaver Bally road in conjunction with dozers and crews working above the residences until dark.


Lightning ignites fire in palm tree farm

Borrego Springs Fire

“Lone Ranger” sent us a report about a rarely seen vegetation fire that occurred August 21 in Borrego Springs, a desert community 50 miles northeast of San Diego, California.


“It’s a very rare occasion that we get a wildfire anywhere near the valley floor let alone, on it. An intense lightning storm, August 21 mid-morning, gave OV-10 Air Attack 330, and S2-T Tankers T-70 and T-71 out of Ramona Air Attack Base an opportunity to pay Borrego Springs a visit.

One strike ignited an old stand of very tall fan palms at a large palm tree farm. From my property 3 miles away the huge flames and dark column of smoke left no doubt that it was a grove of palm trees. The skirt of dead fronds that adorns the trunk of a fan palm below the green canopy can consist of many tens of very dry and incredibly flammable fronds.
Borrego Springs Fire

Well under 10 acres in the end, this was a compact but intense wildfire warranting a mutual aid response perhaps even before Borrego Springs Fire Department arrived on scene after a 6 or 7 minute drive from their station.

Response included San Diego County Fire, CalFire, San Diego County Sheriff water dropping helicopters, Cleveland NF and, of course, Ramona AA. T-70 and T-71 flew two sorties. The first was split drops and the second was full load drops. It was a short-lived air show but a good air show just the same.

Borrego Springs Fire

It’s amazing that the fire confined itself/was confined to the narrow stand of very tall palms less than 150 feet wide and maybe 1000 feet long while literally 12 feet away to the north and running the length of the fire are about 225 acres of hundreds of 10-20 foot tall densely planted fan palms. There were remains of fire brands scattered throughout.”
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National Guard promotes their firefighting activity

The National Guard has released another video promoting the assistance they provided to the firefighting efforts in California. Earlier this morning they Tweeted about still another video that featured their helicopters and MAFFS air tankers, but within a couple of hours it became inaccessible, marked “private”. Maybe it was pulled because every time it showed a MAFFS air tanker dropping water, undoubtedly filmed during pre-season training, it was described as dropping retardant.