Firefighters making progress on Lassen NP fire

Reading Fire Lassen National Park
Reading Fire from Harkness, August 7, 2012. Credit: Lassen NPS

Higher humidities and lower temperatures have enabled firefighters on the Reading fire in Lassen National Park in Californina to make some progress in the last couple of days. That may change a little today with the forecast for warmer and drier conditions, including a high in the mid-eighties and a relative humidity of 21 percent.

While the fire behavior has slowed, firefighters have been conducting burnouts and constructing direct fireline where it is feasible. The fire is 46 miles east of Redding, has burned over 25,000 acres, and is listed at 25 percent containment.

Map of Reading Fire in Lassen NP
Map of Reading Fire in Lassen NP, showing heat detected by a satellite at 3:55 a.m. August 16, 2012. The green line is the park boundary. Click to enlarge.

While the firefighters work their butts off today, we can appreciate these photographs provided by the National Park Service.

Reading Fire
Reading Fire, August 5, 2012. Credit: Lassen NPS

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San Diego County fire causes evacuations of San Felipe and Ranchita

Map of Vallecito Lightning Complex, San Diego County
Map of fires in eastern San Diego County, showing heat detected by a satellite on the Vallecito Lightning Complex, at 12:35 p.m., August 15, 2012

The Vallecito Lightning Complex of fires in eastern San Diego County, California is causing evacuations of two communities, San Felipe and Ranchita. Five fires started by lightning have burned a total of 15,525 acres. Two of the fires were contained at 3 acres, and one burned 519 acres before it was contained. But two others, the Wilson and Stewart fires, have burned 8,000 and 7,000 acres, respectively, and are likely to merge. The two large fires are 40-50 percent contained.

On Wednesday highways between Borrego Springs, Julian, and Ranchita were closed. There have been no reports of structures that have burned.

Eight helicopters, CH-53 Super Stallions and CH-46 Sea Knights, from Camp Pendleton and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station are assisting with the fire, transporting firefighters and making water drops.

Over 1,400 personnel are fighting the fire, along with 77 engines, 48 hand crews, and 28 water tenders.

Wildfire burns 15 percent of Lassen Volcanic National Park

Reading fire, Lassen
Firing out on the Reading fire, Lassen Volcanic NP. Photo by Steve Burns

A wildfire with the odd name of “Reading” has burned 15 percent of Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Approximately 15,506 acres of the 23,958-acre fire are within the northern boundary of the park (see the map below).

The Reading fire is being managed by Pincha-Tulley’s Type 1 Incident Management Team; 1,239 firefighters and overhead are committed, including 36 crews. The fire burned 2,380 acres on Monday. Heavy timber and brush burned actively Monday night with low rates of spread and isolated single tree torching. Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway continues to be closed for seven miles from Manzanita Lake to Summit Lake. Summit Lake, Butte Lake, Lost Creek and Crags Campgrounds remain closed. (Source: National Park Service)

Below is a map showing the perimeter of the Reading fire, 48 miles east of Redding, California.
Continue reading “Wildfire burns 15 percent of Lassen Volcanic National Park”

Wye and Walker fires in northern California burning hot

Two fires burning east of Clearlake Oaks, California, are threatening homes and ranches and forcing evacuations. The Wye Fire, near the intersection of Highway 20 and Highway 53, was at 3,000 acres and about 25 percent containment. The Walker Fire, near Walker Ridge Road, is 30 percent contained at 2,000 acres after causing evacuations of 480 residents in the Spring Valley area. A Cal Fire spokesman told the Lake County News that both fires were very active this morning.

Wilbur Hot Springs and other areas in Lake County are popular summer destinations about two hours north of San Francisco.

NBC News reported that the smoke could be seen from Napa County from the south and Butte County from the north. The L.A. Times, which has several photos, reported that the fire was burning on both sides of Highway 20 and moving toward Spring Valley.

Crews were challenged by triple-digit temperatures, erratic winds, and low humidity; an incident command post has been set up at the Lake County Fairgrounds. California Highway Patrol closed Highway 20 east of Clearlake Oaks for a firing operation, but it should be re-opened this afternoon. Cal Fire said there were 324 personnel on the fire, along with 44 engines, eight crews, seven bulldozers, two airtankers, and four helicopters.

Fire near San Diego

A fire near Warner Springs in San Diego County has grown to over 900 acres.

KXO Radio reported that the Chihuahua Fire was estimated at 5 percent containment this morning, with mandatory evacuations in effect for residents of the Chihuahua Valley Road area. Resources assigned include 15 engines and 12 crews, along with three airtankers and six helicopters.

AP reports said the fire was ignited by lightning on Thursday, when thunderstorms rolled through the region with heavy rain and hail.

California fire fee launched

A controversial fire fee imposed by the state will be assessed on more than 15,000 homes in Marin County’s unincorporated areas — even though property owners there already pay for fire protection services.

The new fire fee for rural areas has caused protests in Marin and other California communities. reported that Cal Fire budget reductions in the last year and a half amounted to almost $80 million, and the new protection fee will help offset that loss. Revenue from the new fee is estimated at $84 million per year.

About 845,000 California property owners will receive notice of the fee; buildings are subject to the fee depending on location. The program covers only unincorporated areas of the state — about 31 million acres where fire protection is a state responsibility. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, says this is a “highly flawed fee” that legislators had to agree to as part of a budget deal. Huffman said the fee discriminates against rural areas and punishes communities that tax themselves to provide fire protection. He doesn’t think the fee system will survive a legal challenge.

Cal Fire’s Daniel Berlant says the growing number of homes in the interface has increased the state’s costs for suppression. “Services like public safety are vital,” he told Southern California Public Radio. “This new fee will create a stable funding source for public safety and in these tough times we can’t afford not to put money toward fire prevention.”

But many homeowners see the fee as an illegal tax. “This goes on to basically pay the ongoing infrastructure for Cal Fire,” says Republican Senator George Runner with the Board of Equalization. He says the fee paid by a homeowner may not benefit that particular homeowner and is therefore a tax. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association called the fee an “illegal tax” and is expected to sue.

Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber said the fee will be assessed on 18,000 parcels in Marin for $1.75 million but won’t provide direct benefits to the county. “We want to make sure our communities are protected here in Marin, and $1.75 million is a lot of money we could use locally for wildland fire prevention.” Tiburon Fire Protection District Chief Richard Pearce said his district opposes the tax. “In Marin in particular, it takes $1.75 million from the county and there is no direct benefit,” he said. “We’re already covering the area.”

According to the Silicon Valley Mercury News, Marin officials aren’t alone in objecting to the fee. Others who oppose the program include the California State Association of Counties, California Professional Firefighters, and the California Fire Chiefs Association.

The “State Responsibility Area Fire Prevention Benefit Fee” was signed into law last year. It requires homeowners in designated fire-prone areas to pay an annual fee of $150 for each habitable structure on a parcel. A $35 discount applies to properties that are already protected by an organized fire agency.