Firefighter fatality on Mendocino Complex of Fires

(UPDATED at 8:22 a.m. PDT August 14, 2018)

Officials on the Mendocino Complex of Fires reported Monday night that a Utah firefighter who was working on the incident was killed in an accident. No other details or the identity of the person has been released.

Fact finding is ongoing and notification of next of kin is in progress.

We send out our sincere condolences to the firefighter’s friends, family, and co-workers.

The sender of the tweet below is in Draper City, Utah.

It has been a tragic summer in California. Five other agency employees or contractors have died in the line of duty in the last month while working on wildfires in the state:

-Andrew Jason Brake, a heavy equipment mechanic, died August 9 on the Carr Fire.
–Don Ray Smith, contract dozer operator, of Pollock Pines, CA, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Redding fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke, Fire Inspector for the Redding, CA Fire department, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Brian Hughes, Captain on National Park Service Arrowhead Hotshots, Ferguson Fire, July 29.
–Braden Varney, CAL FIRE Heavy Fire Equipment Operator, July 14, Ferguson Fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
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Largest fire in California’s history continues to spread north

The Ranch Fire has burned 295,970 acres east of Ukiah

(Originally published at 12:13 p.m. PDT August 13, 2018.)

A few days ago the 295,970-acre Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex of Fires east of Ukiah, California, became the largest wildfire in the recorded history of the state. It blew past the previous record set by last December’s Thomas Fire near Santa Barbara, exceeding it now by about 14,000 acres.

But the fire is not resting on its achievements — in recent days it has been very active on its north side where it has spread practically unfettered one to two miles farther north over the last seven days, approaching Lake Pillsbury.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Mendocino Complex of Fires, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The mapping flight Sunday night did not show any major fire activity on the rest of the fire, or on any of the perimeter of the other fire in the Complex, the River Fire west of Clear Lake.

map mendocino complex fire Ranch fire
The red lines represent the perimeters of the fires at 10 p.m. PDT August 12, 2018. The red shaded areas had intense heat at that time. The white line was the perimeter seven days before. Click to enlarge.

CAL FIRE reports that 147 residences have been destroyed in the two fires and another 1,025 remain threatened.

A very large army of firefighters are still battling the two fires, including 256 fire engines, 58 fire crews, 20 helicopters, 76 dozers, and 79 water tenders, for a total of 3,221 personnel.

CAL FIRE’s information about the Ranch Fire on August 13 included this:

Ranch Fire California
I need to learn how they do that.

Firefighters conducting very large backfiring operation at the Carr Fire

The Carr Fire has burned over 186,000 acres west and northwest of Redding, California

map Carr Fire california
The red line shows the perimeter of the Carr Fire at 10:16 p.m. PDT August 10, 2018. The white line was the perimeter two days before. The beginning of the burnout can be seen at the north end of the fire. Click to enlarge.

Above: Map of the Carr Fire, August 11, 2018.

(Originally published at noon PDT August 11, 2018)

Firefighters have decided to use a bold tactic to stop the northern spread of the Carr Fire in California. Since it started from a burning vehicle near Redding on July 23 it has burned over 186,000 acres in an area about 27 miles long by 19 miles wide.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Carr Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The tactic they selected a couple of days ago was to go approximately five miles north of the fire and backfire, igniting ahead of the main fire hoping that eliminating burnable fuel will stop the main fire when it reaches the backfire. This is taking place along a 12-mile stretch at the northwest part of Shasta Lake near Moist Cove working to the northwest, roughly following Road N7601 and dozer lines they are constructing. Then they make a left turn south for another five miles to tie in with the main fire east of Trinity Lake.

If crews can get the backfire to consume the fuel for at least several hundred yards (more is better) toward the main fire, they will have a pretty good chance of success.

Backing off from the fire, WAY OFF, and removing the fuel by burning it, usually from a ridge, has often worked very well. Sometimes firefighters ignite a backfire from the next ridge ahead of the fire, which may not provide enough time to complete it to the point where it will be effective. The late Rick Gale, who over several decades fought some of the largest wildland fires as a Type 1 Incident Commander and Area Commander, would say, “Don’t choose the NEXT RIDGE, choose the BEST RIDGE”, even if it is miles away.

If the north end does not move any further, the backfire would encompass approximately 40,000 acres, roughly 12 miles by 5 miles in size.

The Carr Fire has been spreading more slowly in recent days. It has been fairly quiet around Redding, but has continued to grow on the northeast and southwest sides.

Resources assigned to the fire include 335 fire engines, 76 hand crews, 12 helicopters, 112 dozers, and 125 water tenders for a total of 4,665 personnel.

According to CAL FIRE, 1,077 residences and 22 commercial structures have been destroyed in the fire. Three people working on the fire have been killed, including two firefighters and one CAL FIRE heavy equipment mechanic.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect Saturday for high temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds.

Below: The California Air National Guard shot this video from the cockpit of one of their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130’s as it dropped retardant on the Carr Fire in Northern California July 31, 2018.

CAL FIRE employee killed on the Carr Fire in Northern California

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, announced that a heavy equipment mechanic for the agency was killed while assigned to the Carr Fire near Redding, California. Andrew Jason Brake died August 9 due to a single vehicle accident while assigned to the fire that has burned 177,000 acres west of the city.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Brake was headed north on 99, just south of Tehama Vina Road in Tehama, when the road made a slight curve to the left, California Highway Patrol officer Ken Reineman said. Brake “failed to maintain his path,” drifted off the road to the right and hit a tree. His vehicle, believed to be a pickup truck, was engulfed in flames, Reineman said. Brake died in the vehicle fire, Reineman said. The crash occurred at 12:17 a.m., he added.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Brake’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Four other agency employees or contractors have died in the line of duty in the last month while working on wildfires in California:

–Don Ray Smith, contract dozer operator, of Pollock Pines, CA, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Redding fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke, Fire Inspector for the Redding, CA Fire department, on the Carr Fire July 26.
–Brian Hughes, Captain on National Park Service Arrowhead Hotshots, Ferguson Fire, July 29.
–Braden Varney, CAL FIRE Heavy Fire Equipment Operator, July 14, Ferguson Fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom and Paula.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Firefighters battle Holy Fire as it approaches structures

The fire has burned over 18,000 acres northwest of Lake Elsinore, California

(Originally published at 9:01 a.m. PDT August 10, 2018)

Thursday afternoon and evening the Holy Fire northwest of Lake Elsinore in Southern California bumped up against homes on the southeast and east sides of the fire. Firefighters on the ground and in the air battled the flames very close to homes along McVicker Canyon Park Road and near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Lake Street.

A spokesperson for the incident management team said the fire grew close to El Cariso Village up on the hill above Lake Elsinore but it had not crossed the Ortega Highway, SR 74.

map Holy Fire California
In this map of the Holy Fire, the red line was the perimeter at 9:45 p.m. PDT August 8, 2018. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite 200 miles overhead at 2:54 a.m. PDT August 10, 2018. The accuracy of those heat sources is not guaranteed, and should be taken with a grain of salt. They may or may not be real. Click to enlarge.

Satellite heat sensing data shows that the fire spread significantly to the north and also on the south side, approaching the Ortega Highway.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Holy Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The team has not confirmed that any structures have been destroyed since day one of the fire on August 6 when approximately 12 structures in Trabuco Canyon were destroyed. It was not specified if the structures were outbuildings, such as sheds, or residences. A damage assessment team will be deployed Friday to determine if any homes were destroyed on the Riverside County side of the fire Thursday.

Fire officials said Friday morning the fire has burned approximately 18,137 acres, an increase of more than 8,000 acres in the last 24 hours.

Information released by the Cleveland National Forest, which is where the fire is burning, indicates that in addition to the weather, steep terrain, and limited access, another reason they are losing ground is they are not able to obtain all the firefighting resources they have requested. This is a result of many large fires currently burning in the Western United States — all competing for ground and air resources. Today over 29,000 personnel are assigned to wildland fires across the country.

Suspect arrested, suspected of starting the Holy Fire

There are reports that the suspect sent an email to the local fire chief saying “this place will burn”.

Forrest Gordon Clark
Forrest Gordon Clark. Credit: Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, was arrested Wednesday, suspected of starting the Holy Fire which has burned 9,614 acres in Orange and Riverside Counties in Southern California. Officials said that on Thursday he will be charged with felony arson, felony threat to terrorize, and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Mr. Clark owns one of 14 cabins in an area of Trabuco Canyon in the general area where the fire started. All of the cabins in the area burned except for his, according to Newsmax.

The Orange County Register reports that at one point on Tuesday Mr. Clark took off all his clothes while Deputies were questioning him. Newsmax wrote that other residents said he threatened firefighters with a sword while they were fighting the fire.

The video below is an interview with Mr. Clark conducted by OnsceneTV before he was arrested.

Below is unedited footage shot by OnsceneTV that appears to be in Trabuco Canyon on the west side of the Holy Fire. Mr. Clark can be seen several times as Deputies talked with him.