Tamarack Fire spreads five miles after being monitored for 13 days

Evacuations are in effect and structures have burned south of Woodfords, California

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Updated at 5:03 p.m. PDT July 17, 2021

Tamarack Fire map
Tamarack Fire map, showing heat detected by a satellite as late as 2:12 p.m. PDT July 17, 2021.

We have a new map for the Tamarack Fire showing data from a satellite overflight at 2:12 p.m. PDT July 17.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Tamarack Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

Updated at 3:48 p.m. PDT July 17, 2021

Tamarack Fire
Tamarack Fire as seen from the North Moc camera looking northeast at 3:05 p.m. July 17, 2021.

The Tamarack Fire, like many of the other recent wildfires in California and Oregon is cranking Saturday afternoon. Photographer Craig Philpott has video of it moving east at a rapid rate of spread across Highway 89 north of Markleeville, south of Airport Road .

An update from Alpine County at 3:13 p.m. Saturday said 7,000 acres have burned and 2 structures were destroyed. Aerial firefighting is limited by dense smoke. Also:

Mandatory evacuations are in place for the following areas: Grover Hot Springs, Shay Creek, MarkleeVillage, Markleeville, Carson River Resort, & Poor Boy Road area, Wolf Creek Campground, Silver Creek Campground, ADDITIONALLY Sierra Pines, Upper and Lower Manzanita, Crystal Springs, Alpine Village, Diamond Valley Road and Hung-a-lel-ti are now under mandatory evacuations. “The Mesa” is under a voluntary evacuation but conditions are changing fast. Please stay out of these areas to allow emergency personnel to do their jobs.

It is my understanding that this time of year in this part of California fires are often pushed to the northeast. Out ahead of the Tamarack Fire in that direction there is not much recent history of fires. Under the present conditions of dry fuels, high temperatures, and low humidity, those 30+ year old fire footprints from the 1980s are not likely to provide much of a barrier.

Fire history, Tamarack Fire area
Fire history, Tamarack Fire area.

The image below shows the track of an Air Attack aircraft which supervises other aerial firefighting aircraft and provides real time situational awareness about the fire to personnel on the ground. Presumably the fire, or at least the most dense smoke, is inside the U-shaped flight path.

Air Attack aircraft over the Tamarack Fire
An at 3:18 p.m. PDT July 17, 2021. FlightRadar24

9:07 a.m. PDT July 17, 2021

Tamarack Fire map
Tamarack Fire, showing heat detected by a satellite at 3:42 a.m. PDT July 17, 2021.

The Tamarack Fire spread for about five miles Friday after it had been in a monitoring status for 13 days while it was very small. It moved northeast and according to heat sensing data from satellites very early Saturday morning appeared to have come very close to the community of Markleeville and Highway 89.

The Alpine County Sheriff’s Office reported at about 8 a.m. Saturday that the fire was 6,600 acres, three structures had burned, and, “This is a serious situation. Please get out when advised to.” They also advised to not rely on Facebook for evacuation notifications.

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest updated InciWeb at 8 a.m. Saturday:

Highway 89, 88 and 4 are closed in the fire area. Evacuations are in place for Markleeville, Grover’s Hot Springs Park and Campground, Shay Creek, Markleeville Village and  East Fork Resort. Residents can sign up for evacuation notifications at https://alpinecountyca.gov/204/Sheriff. Evacuees can report to Alpine County School in Paynesville.

According to satellite data at 3:42 a.m. PDT July 17, 2021, the fire was very close to Markleeville, 5 miles south of Woodfords, and 18 miles south of South Lake Tahoe.

Tamarack Fire
Tamarack Fire as seen from Hawkins Peak, looking southeast at 8:38 a.m. PDT July 17, 2021.

Below is a still image of a Forest Service Facebook post with a video of the fire when it was a quarter acre on July 10, six days after it started. “Fire poses no threat to the public, infrastructure, or resource values,” they wrote.

Tamarack Fire Facebook July 10, 2021

The satellite photo below taken at 6:41 p.m. PDT July 16 shows a large smoke plume created by the Tamarack Fire.

Tamarack Fire Facebook

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

63 thoughts on “Tamarack Fire spreads five miles after being monitored for 13 days”

  1. What was that definition of insanity………

    You know. You keep doing the same old thing and somehow expect a different result..

    I am all for letting fires burn. The “where” is pretty easy to define.
    The “when”…..well, that needs some serious attention and fixing.

    It is time to hold the government and it’s officials accountable.

  2. What was their response when it skunked around beyond the granite rock, past the small lake and through the sparse fuels?Sometime within the last 13 days this .25 acre fire that posed “no threat” grew to 5 then 10 acres, then 75, then 150, then 500. The best they could do along the way was monitor?

    Now it’s moved 5 effing miles and grown to near 7000 acres. Is it posing enough of a threat now to motivate some aggressive firefighting? Classic USFS.

    Sadly, this is nothing new around my neck of the woods. The Stanislaus USFS folks “monitored” the Rim fire initially in 2013, and they hemmed and hawed over the Donnell fire initially in 2018. Both became major disasters.

    I often wonder if the challenges the USFS faces in wildland fire control center on staffing, budgets and job classifications or are in fact the result of a lack of a sense of urgency on the part of fire managers.

    In the midst of historic level drought and a historic heatwave spanning the July 4 week here in the Sierras the USFS fire managers again chose to “monitor”. Whatever became of “Fight fire aggressively while providing for safety first”?

    Maybe the Stanislaus and Humboldt-Toiyabe have added an 11th fire order? “Monitor with indifference until it becomes a conflagration”.

  3. This does not compute!! Granted, there’s an abundance of firefighting resources being used up on fires not so far away to the north but… . Burning conditions are evident on those fires not so far away. Why not spike a crew on this tiny fire in sparse fuels surrounded by granite and a lake? Hand tools only. Plenty of water for piss pumps! Apparently ample safety zones. It’s way too late for that now. I mean half a brain should remind anyone with firefighting experience that trees torch. Beautiful Roman candles! How far can one air-born ember travel beyond the confines of granite and water? Maybe the decision-makers can answer that correctly now. Is this part of a conspiracy to bring to light a total lack of reasonable management and decision-making? This appears to be an absolute blunder, an excellent example of extremely poor judgement!! Very very disappointing. LR

  4. People need to be held responsible for this. We do not just watch fires as they rage. It’s mid July, why was the fire just being “monitored”?

    Why don’t we put a little bit of effing effort into saving what’s left of our forests. For real. Can not believe. People must be held responsible. That was not the right call.

  5. I just went thru all the incidents shown on today’s NIFC Situation Report. It shows a total of 23 incidents being managed with a less than full suppression effort. There are a total of 2,311 personnel assigned to theses incidents with a total of $107,890,000.00 spent to date.
    What is wrong with this picture? Someone needs to WAKE-UP. I am hopeful the new Chief of the Forest Service, Randy Moore will shake things up!

  6. These are the kinds of things that make me want to leave the USFS. More than the low pay and crappy benefits, it’s the absolutely stupid decisions that are made sometimes. It is certainly not an every day occurrence but when stuff like this happens I question my career choices. For all the dialed people that work for the USFS, there is some idiot (or group of them) has to make a ridiculous and dangerous decision such as letting a fire burn in mid fire season and it bites them in the ass, making the entire agency and all of its employees look bad.

  7. Time to put a few “ Managers” in jail for destruction of property. Very poor judgment on their part is destroying our forests we hire them to protect. There are too many examples of poor management in recent years. This fire is eliminating half of Alpine county.

  8. This is one of many examples of why some are viewing the land management agencies as thugs. And remember, the 107 plus million mentioned in a comment is just a small part of actual costs. An earlier Wildfire Today article said, “…the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire in New Mexico ended up having a total estimated cost of $906 million, of which suppression accounted for only 3 percent.” The medical costs to individuals and society because of health damage from breathing smoke is one of those factors.

  9. Know need to say any more than said above by all the contributors. Has fire season turned into not managing fire (extinguishing) fires but a social economic game to provide jobs? Last time I check many of these fires are on or near PUBLIC lands which we the people are the land owners? Yep another Fed blunder.

  10. Agency Administrators who make these decisions at USFS have no “real on the line” wildland fire and aviation experience. They have never fought a fire- on the actual fire line. (Well maybe one or two of them- for like a year). They don’t understand wildland fire- and don’t listen to the fire teams.

  11. As a former USFS employee, a Pacific Crest Trail advocate, and frequent Grovers Hot Springs SP visitor, I am both sickened and disgusted by the needless natural resource and personal property destruction that was allowed to occur by fire incident managers. My heart aches for the impacted home and business owners, and for those, like myself, sickened by the loss of the area’s scenic beauty and treasured recreational resource quality. The USFS clearly failed to properly assess and minimize the risk to human life, property, and highly-valued natural resource attributes of the Markleeville area. This is a devastating tragedy that appears to have been totally avoidable. Heads need to roll, but not before those in command and responsible for this travesty of management be made to personally appear in Markleeville, post containment and mop-up, to meet and hear from local home and business owners, government public safety and tourism officials, and natural resource enthusiasts from the general public that have been impacted by the Tamarack fire. Those responsible must be forced to hear our pain and sense of loss associated with their mismanagement!

  12. It seems odd to let something go that long under the present drought and dry fuels . Markleeville was certainly downwind of that fire. Granted wilderness lightning starts may be something to let go under favorable circumstances. These are far from favorable circustances. I worked as an FPT out of Markleeville in the 1970’s and no smoke was considered to be not a potential problem. We jumped on the easy stuff right away, but even hard to get to smokes would eventually have a small hand crew either walk in or be dropped in. From the pics this fire looks like it could have been easily dealt with by a mopup crew spending acouple of nights out there before it blew up into this?

  13. If campfires are not allowed, I am wondering who thought a smouldering fire was a good idea. Usually waiting to correct a problem…leads to bigger,more difficult and costly problems down the road. I am saddened by this and disheartened by the lack of good judgment.

  14. Unfortunately, fire fighting has become “Big Business.” Now after Covid19 budgets are being tore apart!!

    You still need to make good decisions and I am not sure if good decisions are in everyone’s vocabulary in 2021? Time will tell and history will report it and log it forever!!

    Stay safe men and women of the fire service!! My candle is burning for you!!


    Martin L’Iceman’Wheeler
    Retired firefighter

  15. Bill, the conjecture in these comments is pretty extreme. I’m wondering if you or others can present evidence as to the overall intent of agency administrators and Fire management in how things evolved tactically on the group. That would help us all understand how we arrived at this point.

    And before anyone starts yelling, I’m not taking a side here, I just want a better picture of what actually happened on the ground and what specific decision were and we’re not made as well as the how and why.

    Thank you.

  16. Sagebrush hit it on the head, than add in they are all “Ologists of some type and willing to follow and push the “Woke” policies being shoved down our throats. They have to be “Yes Persons” (cannot say Men today) and not cause waves that create problems for management. The swiss cheese holes of upper management is showing, and by following the latest “Woke” fads is helping the holes to line up.

    The Land Agencies have had an avalanche of retirements and positions have been filled with rotating detailers that have no real stake in standing up and protecting the land. If you are labeled a “troublemaker” you will not rise in the ranks. Key positions also tend to filled with persons from outside the area without longtime ties.

    By avoiding the initial risk to personal in Initial Attack, they are making a bigger hazard when they actually take action, endangering hundreds more lives and property with action after it gets out of control.

    These “Managers” need to be held accountable and charged as they now can say it was the Fire Team’s decisions and off load responsibility.

  17. This Tamarack fire mirrors the 1987 Acorn/Woodfords fire that the USFS management had made wrong decisions and a terrible judgement to let it smolder. Our local Fire Department volunteers wanted to go up the rocky ridge and put the small fire out because our volunteers knew the Woodfords canyon winds rise up each afternoon, and so those winds did like clockwork.
    Our loss of homes was so devastating. We lost so much that day in July 1987.
    We did not need to see history repeat itself.

  18. Ten of millions of dollars have been spent on fire potential and behavior studies and documents. Burning indexes, ignition components, drought indexes and the list goes on. Evidently the fire managers on the Toyota and Humbug Forest must have misplaced them. Not to single out this Forest, its happening throughout the U.S. If the indexes reflect a serious fire problem; then shouldn’t we take stock in what has been studied and presented in field documents for decades?
    Only fair to mention that the Forest Service isn’t a fire agency. fire is just a nuisance. When and how the F.S. takes care of fire is their business. The introduction of the VLAT was a hard pill for the Feds to swallow. Their studies after study reflected their feeling about the program. Only on flat ground, BLM type terrain. This attitude could have a contributed to driving the Supertanker (747) out of the fire business.

  19. Quick fire facts:
    From 2009 to 2019, 502 firefighters were killed fighting wildfires.
    Due to extreme heat and drought in the Western States, there are currently over 12,000 firefighters working in 12 States trying to stop about 1 million acres of wildfire. Stay Safe!
    In 2020 there were close to 59,000 wildfires declared that burned over 10 million acres; over half of the acreage was on National Forest Lands.
    Since the year 1960, the top 5 years for large wildfires have all been within the past 15 years (2007, 2006, 2017, 2020 & 2015.)
    A wild land fire emergency was declared in Montana just 3 days ago due to the number of fires in that State; 78% were caused by human activities.
    The US Forest Service employs about 10,000 yearly and seasonal firefighters.
    The US Department of the Interior employs about 5,000 yearly and seasonal firefighters.
    CalFire has a firefighting force of about 15,500; 6,100 full time, 2,600 seasonal (which includes 1,400 added this year,) 2,750 local volunteers, 600 prevention volunteers, 3,500 inmates/wards along with some Conservation Corp volunteer members.
    Retention of firefighters at the Federal level fell 8% in 2020 due to the pay structure, stress of the job and time spent away from family because of the increasing length of the fire season.
    The last large wildfire of 2020 in California was the Creek 5 fire in San Diego that was contained on December 31, 2020.
    Please keep all this in mind before you tell somebody who they should have “sent” out to work on a wildfire.

  20. Well said. I agree with just about every comment here but in the end, These days, we tend to draw conclusions with the tiniest bit of information. That said, our forests have been poorly maintained for generations. They Flip flop back and forth between let it burn and don’t let it burn. Clean up don’t clean up. Before we began to “manage” forests, nature took care of forests. They burned and then reseeded. Sometimes small areas and sometimes huge. We have turned every fire into a potential ravaging inferno by doing just enough to throw everything natural out of whack. There is so much dead and dying timber and so much fuel on the forest floors. It’s taken a long time to get this bad. It seems the middle of a horrible drought in the hottest of summers is a stupid time to decide to watch and wait on any fire. It would have been so much easier to extinguish this fire at a quarter acre! Even the most knowledgeable on the subject would probably think nipping in the bud under the extreme conditions that exist would make sense. Scary to think these decision makers wield such power. I worked for Forest Service on LTBMU South Lake Tahoe early 80’s. Spent my summer vacations and hunted darn near every year in Markleeville area from 1959 to late 19080s. Remember when Hot Springs was just a hole in the ground with a rickety little fence around it. Sooo sad to see this happen but not surprised. What a waste. Beautiful country, wildlife just gone in an instant because of Bureaucrats.

  21. After looking at Flight Tracker 24 I find it interesting that I can only detect a few SEATS working this fire. Forty five minute turn arounds? No helicopters are shown. The big show will probably begin in a few days and ten thousand more acres. Or as they say “too much too late”. People need jobs. Hopefully no one is injured or worst. End of rant.

  22. Yes, ask your representatives if this lightning strike policy makes sense. Also, step up private property clearing and controlled burns. It is not hard to see too dense forest growth.

  23. All the above comments have hit the nail on the head. This is just one of dozens over the past few years. Certainly insanity has set in to the good old FS I used to work for. And to add to Mr. Younts remarks, who in the aviation management section of the NWCG decided that flying SEATS long distances from fixed bases was a good idea? When they first came into the business, they brought a mobile foam or retardant plant with them, and flew from local airstrips or roads. Even though they weren’t great, at least their quick turnarounds were efficient. Now look at the costs of SEATS—through the roof, and really not very effective due to the long turnaround times.

  24. People in past generations had an expression for this kind of failure. “A stitch in time saves nine” Apparently they were a lot smarter or had more common sense back then (or both), but then they didn’t have all the “enlightened” education to muddle their minds either.

  25. An Agency administrator or two needs to be FIRED for this one. Not just “reassigned” to a storage closet at the WO but straight up FIRED.

  26. Type 1 team assigned now so many more resources will be assigned, taking away from IA. Way to go….

  27. Kind of an aside from all the commotion the Tamarack is causing. If I was on a crew that got spiked onto this fire in the first few days…. what a deal! Gorgeous country…. loads of exposed granite and several tarns. Not necessarily an easy little fire to work but with ample water and a bunch of piss pumps it would have been dealt with. Period. Sure, we’d be griping that we were stuck on this speck of a fire when other crews were on the real thing…. big fires…. but we’d be getting the same pay. If we knew, then, what this fire was about to become, we wouldn’t be complaining but rather applauding our efforts knowing what we were really accomplishing. Unfortunately it didn’t go that way for anybody. LR

  28. When we choose to completely ignore our history and lets be honest we have a tremendous amount of history, good and really bad, all I can say is that there are folks that would give anything for a do over…..Storm King-South Canyon 1994.
    Well we all know there are no do overs…..maybe second chances……but no do overs…..when you get that second chance, make it right….honor the history……
    The USFS social media release….It’s surrounded by natural barriers and no threat……That will be seen again in court….Unbelievable..Aughhhhhhh!

    I know we can not put them all out but we have some very smart people that can project a fires growth, and the fact we are in PL-5, 1/4 acre skunk fire….put it out…..

    And now it’s a resource vac. For weeks……

  29. You are emotionally intelligent! I appreciate your comment. I agree. An interview with the decision maker(s) would make for a helpful article.

  30. This discussion is an exact parallel to Bill’s last post starting this discussion on managed fires. It is high time for the public to speak up and make some voices are heard.
    Some thoughts for all of us to consider
    1) It was mentioned once in this thread I believe, please communicate with your elected officials, they are the ones who will either allow it or stop it.
    2) I am sick and tired of hearing from Federal officials that “this is our (Federal) property and we have the right to do whatever we see fit with it.” That is the biggest lie yet, and they have gotten people to believe it. The land is ours, the tax paying public own it, and we should start making that clear. The incompetent non fire managers who perpetuate this activity are paid by OUR tax dollars.
    3) The managers who made this, (and other) incompetent decisions need to be held criminally and civilly responsible AFTER they are fired from public service.
    4) I am not an opponent of prescribed, or let burn fire policy, quite the opposite. But folks, here is a shocking concept, time and place. There is a time and place for everything. Time and again, this occurs and then they act surprised when it decides to wake up and eat everything in its path. Everything stated on the Rim fire is correct, CALFIRE advocated for aggressive action the first day, but “no we are going to slow down and watch it for awhile”.
    5) It is time the Federal fire agencies empower their fire leadership to make these decisions without the input of some sandal wearing Forest Ranger or District Ranger who doesn’t know a hoselay from a ham sandwich.

    Until some or all of these changes are made, make sure your insurance is current and be a voice of change in your communities.
    As stated in another post, I hope the Forest management is forced to face the public and those who lost everything they own, and publicly and explain their crime.

  31. Now and soon hereafter will be the ideal time for voters to pay attention to current legislative proposals regarding updated policies, ordinances and laws about building/re-building in the fire prone districts. Politically vocal rejections by the developers and real estate industry to restrictions on building and public objections to smoke & inconvenience from prescribed burns have pretty much extinguished updated policies surviving Sacramento. Current governor vetoed the last piece to pass the floor; jobs in the construction trades would take too much of a hit.

  32. I worked for the BLM (Fire) for 17 years. I ended up leaving because I was completely burnt out (no pun intended). Watching people in positions they have no business in making decisions with no common sense had gotten to be too much. When people are called out for their mistakes or down right criminal activity the whistle blowers become the “trouble makers” and are black balled. I worked numerous fires early I my career where we went in kicked ass and put things out. Before I left everything had gone “big box” and situations like this became more the norm. Everything suddenly was “too dangerous”. Many opportunities to do good work were squandered in favor of the next ridge or road only to have those fail and many 1000’s of acres and property destroyed. The Dome fire in 2020 in the Mojave National Preserve is a perfect example of how lack of decisions and good leadership resulted in a needless loss of 1000’s of acres of Joshua tree habitat lost. My prayers to those in the path of the Tamarack fire. This could have been easily prevented by those willing to work hard.

  33. Many good, logical, and consistent comments!! Makes a sane person wonder if we are truly in Alice’s Wonderland. I am part of a group of retired Forest Service professionals of a number of disciplines that have been dealing with current FS occupants at the W.O. level for the past 5+ years to not use “wildfire to manage for resource benefits” during the declared fire season. And to be honest a number of us have never been that supportive of this approach since the National Park Service started this back in the early 1970s. We believe the various agencies have neglected the maintenance/management of the forests for the past 40 years and the combination of fuels build up and drought conditions preclude the use of so-called “managed wildfire” originally designated prescribed natural fire (PNF) as it was originally proposed for areas of no or limited management such as wilderness areas and National Parks. If any fire (although there have been any number) brings out the fallacy of the use of “managed fire” during periods of high fire danger this seems a perfect “poster child.” As an old smokejumper (1957) I have to identify with commentator “Lone Ranger.” This is what we called the traditional “2-manner.” A small fire in the high country with a lake which would be staffed with 2- smokejumpers (hardly a large resource drawdown), with a couple of signal streamers instead of a radio. Yes, we might be grousing about missing the “big one” and subsequent OT, but as near a perfect assignment as could be expected. And keep in mind, when the fire went to 6,600 acres they didn’t even have a map for the NIFC report. Just how much attention could they have been giving this fire?

  34. There is not enough information in this article to judge the decisions made on this fire, but I’ve been on enough similar fires to realize that it is not as simple as many seem to think it is. How were they monitoring fire, did they take actions to stop or check the fire when it crawled out of the rocks, were their orders for additional forces UTFed, – the questions and complexities go on and on.

    The easy answer to any fire is to put it out quickly, no matter the risk to firefighters, suppression, or how many resources it might tie up. It’s a bit more difficult to weigh the odds and make an informed decision. Your decisions are rarely questioned if you are perceived as aggressively suppressing a fire. Most of our best decision makers gravitate to suppression and away from managed fires because they realize the quality of their decisions (and their career prospects) are judged much more harshly on managed fires than suppression fires. To make matters worse, those who stick with managed fires have had little opportunity to practice making and implementing these types of decisions. Fire behavior and prediction tools are much improved and useful, but secondary to having experienced eyes who know when you need to start implementing contingency plans.

    I agree with all the commenters that think we need to improve fire management, however I’m amazed at the number of commenters who think that going back to the failed full suppression policies of the past is the best way to do it. Unfortunately, much of our current wildfire crisis (not to mention countless injuries and taxpayers dollars wasted) is due to making the easy suppression decision. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be suppressing any fires, but we have to be smart about it, and we have to accept some risk with those decisions just like we accept a level of risk when we order a stick of jumpers or virtually any other suppression decision.

  35. Thank you Mr. Nelson for your comments. Is this the same Mr. Nelson who supervised the R5 Smokejumpers in the ’70 and later became the FMO on the Tahoe? Wisdom Plus!!!

  36. Hmm… last time I checked we have helicopters and planes; both of which have means to put out a small .25 acre fire, yes?
    So if a fire is too dangerous for foot crews to get to, use other means. This is just another example of mismanagement by USFS, who should absolutely be held responsible for damages just as someone would be if they let a camp fire burn. Sad…

  37. Randy is political operator not interested in solutions only in increasing his influence . Fires got a lot worse during his watch in his previous position

  38. Hello Marilyn Ashurst. I went to high school with Gary your brother. I worked 30 years for Cal Fire. I have seen first hand the decisions the USFS makes on fires and it sickens me. Yes it would be nice to let all fires burn out of control, however that is not possible. Priorities are Life, Property and Environment in that order. Time and time again the USFS lets these tiny little fires burn till they get up a head of steam and then try to put them out. USFS needs to be held accountable and not at the taxpayers expense. The problem is not the boots on the ground it is the policies they have that create the problem. As an aggressive Fire Captain for Cal Fire we took great pride in the way we attacked every wildfire. Our goal is to extinguish every wildfire within the first burning period. It sickens me to read the part that the fire was a 1/4 acre in size but it wasn’t safe to put fire crews in there. That statement to me is criminal. Firefighting is not safe no matter how you look at it. We take great risk to extinguish these wildfires but that is what we signed up for. Fight Fire aggressively and provide for safety.

  39. I just don’t understand why a air strike wasn’t done. So much devastation.
    Take care Julius. Do you still live in the area?

  40. Must be multiple Creek fires. Creek 5 fire started Christmas Eve 2020 near or on Camp Pendleton per the Weather Channel archives; Santa Ana wind driven; about a 4,300 acre fire.

    The Tamarack fire crew was 120 but now shows 517 on the last incident report I read. The crews have been able to protect most of Markleeville so far. Stay Safe!

  41. Time and a place. This incident was neither. As simple as saying that when ERCs get to a certain point (90?) then full suppression. Of course, I don’t know what they were for this, just throwing my 2 cents out, but beginning of July, when everywhere else is starting to burn, should have given them a clue.

  42. The fervent cries of the mob to punish those for poor outcomes will only result in no one wanting to make any decisions if they are to be held liable and their lives destroyed. Who will be the managers then? Fire suppression is not like putting out your backyard BBQ. It is ever changing and fluid and those in charge are making the best decisions possible. I say this with 34 years of fire suppression experience.

  43. Good point. On the internet, everyone is an “expert” at everything. So far, no loss of life in the Tamarack wildfire and hoping it stays so.

  44. This fire reminds me of a fire a few years back that was also a lightning strike caused fire above the south rim of Yosemite Valley. The fire was ‘monitored’ for week or two until it too blew up into a five or six thousand acre fire in which a federal firefighter lost his life when the top of a snag came down on him.
    The idea that lightning strikes are ‘natural’ and should be left to burn is lunacy and it’s a policy that comes from the sorority girls running the agency in Washington D.C., not from western firefighters on the ground that are doing the work and taking the chances.

  45. And we pay taxes for what… having someone make wrong decisions? South Lake Tahoe is full of smoke along with Gardnerville, Minden and Carson. You know one would think that since they made the same mistake before, that they would learn from it and NOT make the same judgement call! I hope they get sued from all of those whom lost their homes. Oh let’s NOT forget about the poor animals and also the trees! This sucks BIG time! Please pray for God to bring rain.

  46. Marilyn I moved to Wyoming after I retired. Who knows why they did what they did. I would of put a hand crew in there and did bucket drops with a copter until it was dead out.

  47. Not taking sides on this incident without more info. Nobody likes mistakes, including the people who made them. And nobody is perfect. It would be good to see some stats on what percent of “let burn” fires get away and how many acres are burned by “let burn” fires safely as opposed to destructively. What percent of property loss due to all fire is due to “escaped” “let-burn” fires, etc.? And fires that burn “safely” still make potentially harmful smoke…
    I put out a lot of small fires back in the day and sure, the safest way to avoid a tragedy is to try to put out everything, but then that caused the fuel build-up. Realistically, we don’t have enough firefighters to put out every fire and we need more safe fire so maybe the goal is improved guidelines. Can you plot number of escaped fires versus some index like ERC and show that enforcing a lower cut-off for “let burn” would have an impact or is this impractical because our environmental data is too sparse? Or were most tragedies mostly bad luck with (for example) unanticipated wind events, or people ignoring firewise practices, etc.? Finally, is smoke actually the biggest problem by some reasonable metric?
    Guidelines, if feasible, are critical partly because (in my day anyway) the USFS tends to choose the recommendations of recent graduates from anywhere as opposed to the ideas of experienced “grunts”.

  48. I’m not a fire expert, and I am not a firefighter. But I know that the fire was small for many days, that we had a dry year, we have low humidity, and we had an unusual heat wave during the early part of July. All this spelled high fire danger, which was reported. What does monitoring a fire mean? Do you watch it every few hours, once a day, every few days? What is the goal of monitoring? To see if it burns out on its own, to see if it reaches a size that NOW requires some action? Some experienced fire people have commented that there is not enough info in the article to draw conclusions about the decision. Well, the fire could have been addressed with few firefighters when it was one acre. Now that it is over 18,000 acres with no containment, more evacuations, and terrible air quality for miles, there are over 500 firefighters working on it. These fire fighters are really at risk fighting this conflagration rather than a smoldering one acre fire. I think there’s enough info to say that the decision not to tackle the fire earlier was a bad one.

  49. And I thought the lack of early response on the Donnel fire was bad….

    I’m not a firefighter but my gosh it looks like a dozen untrained idiots with shovels could have put out this fire in the early stages. The hypocracy, idiocacy, and down right crimimal negligence displayed by the managers here is unbelievable. Can’t do controll burns in the spring but lets just watch a fire in a drought year of July??? Safety concerns? How about do your job! What about the safety concerns and resource loss now that you choose to do nothing in the early stages? To me this is a perfect example of criminal negligence as one could get, sadly it’s probably not. Just like police actually have no responsibilty to respond and try to protect I doubt it would be any different for a fire manager and a fire.

    I would very much like to know who or whom made this embarassment of a decision and investigate why? At the very least we should be insisting on their resignation or firing.

  50. Steven, “A dozen untrained idiots with shovels?” And you are NOT a firefighter… Really?! What happens if those dozen people end up dead beyond recognition? Their families?

    So far, we have one injured firefighter, Dan Steffensen, who was burned in a fire in Montana. However, we have hundreds of wildfires burning from Canada to New Mexico with thousands of men and women on the lines risking everything in unknown conditions and extreme heat; and this is only July. Your comments and others are not the kind of “pep talk” they need right now and for the next six months.

    Please, calm down, take a deep breath, think for a minute and stop with these comments. The firefighters did NOT start the fires! OK.

  51. Firefighters also risk their lives and joints on 1/4 fire in the wilderness. Sometimes managers don’t put people on fires is rough terrain because the risk it too high. How do we calculate the acres/firefighter lives number?

    I watched a coworker end her fire career on a fire that wasn’t likely to spread. She also never ran fast or was able to play soccer again. It’s all part of the risk management process, sometimes human get it wrong.

  52. Well said Jonny.
    As an ex-wildland firefighter, I never get used to people saying “why aren’t they in there putting this fire out”
    Those folks have no concept of the danger firefighters face for the money they are paid by the feds.
    Please people, your property is of great value to those on the front lines (the real people on the front lines, not the bureaucrats sitting in some air conditioned office somewhere) We do the best we can but inevitably there are losses.
    Defensible space is your first line of defense.

  53. Very true. The problem is most fed agencies will not get the backs of their managers unless the outcome is good. They are quick to throw a bad decision maker under the bus. This has lead to managers and leaders too scared to do what’s right. Not to mention policy on top of policy on top of policy. As previously mentioned fire in the USFS, BLM, NPS, FWS, etc. is just a nuisance and personnel are winter time slave labor. Fire management and programs are so low on the totem pole of land management agencies it’s pathetic. Its probably the most fluid, risky, and dangerous program yet gets the least funding and pays the least of all programs. An employee with just a HS diploma can start as a GS-3 bio-tech and work up to a GS-9 or 11 with little to no training or responsibility in the office. Mean while the lowly seasonal starts off as a GS-3 scratches and claws for a PFT fire position. If they stick with it and promote they need to be DIV, ICT3, STEN/C or TFLD to be a GS-9 BC. This comes with far more responsibility and risk for the same pay as the BS office GS-9. Not to mention we have career seasonal supervisors. All of my top notch supervisors and employees tended to leave and go where their hard work is appreciated. In addition to this the last summer before I left we couldn’t even find people who wanted to fight fire in the summer. For the first time in my career we exhausted the seasonal applicant cert. The entitlement generation has lead to the “everythings too dangerous”. Most who’ve made it and ride it out are either dependent on the job (financially) or are a yes man and will kiss the ass of who ever to gain that next GS. Very few are truly passionate about what they do. For those who are passionate I applaud you for doing the thankless job you do. Spending months away from loved ones to slog it out on the fire line in the name of life, property, and environment. All working the Tamarack fire stay safe and remember this before you needlessly put yourself in harms way: It’s not your emergency and people’s homes are their problem. If you can help great if not don’t risk your self to save someone’s POS shack built in a box canyon with brush all the way up to it. Place a red rock at the end of the driveway, move on, and live to see another day.

  54. I don’t understand either, they could have dropped water or retardant on that fire to put it out, And the tax payer is going to have to pay for it now

  55. They could have dropped water from a tanker or retardant and put it out faster then the can now with 42 thousand acres now burning and lost of wildlife and some structures and thousands of dollars later and the fire now out of control, whoever said let’s monitor.25 acres fire, should be fired go to jail, and pay for all the damages that this fire has cause

  56. Why was, not experienced professional training provided, for clearing forest floors of debris and also essential thinning of trees, not practiced part of preventive fire fighting strategies and also wildlife protection? Unemployment among youth etc. could have been also thereby greatly reduced.

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