Update on California fires, August 29

This studly firefighter carries two hose packs on the Station fire. One on his back and one on his shoulder. No doubt he will soon roll down his sleeves and button his shirt. Photo: Al Seib, August 28, 2009.

We will update this information throughout the day on Saturday. See the MAP of the Station and Morris fires we posted earlier.

STATION FIRE, near La Canada-Flintridge. The fire has burned 5,500 20,102 acres and is 5% contained. Friday the fire was very active and exhibited extreme fire behavior with rapid rates of spread and flame lengths up to 80 feet. Mandatory evacuations are in effect.

There is potential for Saturday’s fire behavior to be similar to that of Friday with spotting up to 1/2 mile in front of the fire after the inversion lifts around noon.

The fire threatens mountain-top communications facilities, several communities, and major power lines. It is burning on extremely steep terrain with 40-year old 15 to 20 foot high brush.

MORRIS FIRE, near Azusa. This fire has burned 2,168 acres and is 85% 95% contained. They are beginning to wrap this one up and some resources are being released. Not much recent heat was detected by satellites in the map we posted earlier.

COTTONWOOD FIRE, eight miles east of Hemet. It has been mapped at 2,200 2,290 acres and is 10% 30% contained. On Friday the western flank was the most active. Not much recent heat was detected by satellites Saturday morning. Firefighters expect to open Highway 74 at 0800 Sunday morning. (See later posts for updated information and maps.)

BIG MEADOW FIRE, Yosemite National Park. This escaped prescribed fire has burned 2,644 3,511 acres and is 30% 16% 50% contained according to the Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center. The main access road for Yosemite is closed. There is the potential for Tioga road to close which is a main throughfare through the Sierras. Strong winds during the day and night have produced active fire behavior at all hours. Down canyon winds have been very strong the last few nights, with gusts to 20 mph. Johnson’s Type 2 incident management team transitioned out at 6 a.m. Saturday when McGowan’s Type 1 team assumed command.

UPDATE from the Park at about 1:30 p.m. PT, Aug. 29:

Yesterday, firefighters made good progress constructing and improving fire lines east of El Portal. Strong down canyon winds last night did not affect fire suppression efforts. Today, the highest priority continues to be strengthening and improving firelines east of El Portal and structure protection in Foresta. Firefighters are aided by eight water dropping helicopters and six air tankers. Control difficulties continue to be hot weather, low humidity, and steep terrain.

This map of the Big Meadow fire shows heat detected by satellites at 3:14 a.m. Saturday morning. The red areas depict the most recently detected heat.

Big Meadow fire, Yosemite National Park, 3:14 a.m. Aug. 29. GEOMAC

The Park has posted a list of frequently asked questions about the fire HERE, including, why ignite the fire in August, what went wrong, and will someone be held accountable.

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