Multiple fires in Northwest California have broken out in recent days

Many fires started from lightning July 29

wildfires in Northwest California map
Satellite photo showing heat and smoke from wildfires in Northwest California at 2:56 a.m. PDT August 2, 2021.

Lightning-caused fires, many of which started July 29, are starting to cover large portions of Northwest California with smoke. Monday afternoon the GOES 17 satellite in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth could easily detect the heat from four large fires in the extreme northwest corner of the state, as well as their extensive smoke plumes.

The fact that the River Complex of fires on the Klamath National Forest is comprised of 19 fires at last count, can give you an idea what might be out there on that forest as well as the nearby Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Monday afternoon the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations for Taylor Creek Road and surrounding areas. Some of the larger fires in the complex include, Haypress, 600 acres; Summer, 75 acres; Cronan, 165 acres; and Packers, 50 acres.

wildfires in Northwest California map
Map showing heat detected on wildfires in Northwest California by satellites at 12:55 a.m. PDT August 2, 2021.

Two large fires are already well established on the Shasta-T, the McFarland and Monument Fires. Today, Monday, two or three other fires further north show up on the satellite photo.

I picked a random location for a weather forecast, 18 miles ESE of Orleans, CA and found that the conditions through Sunday August 8 will be conducive to continued fire spread with the relative humidity in the teens or low twenties, moderate wind speeds, and no chance of precipitation.

Energy Release Component Hayfork, California, Aug. 1, 2021
Energy Release Component Hayfork, California, Aug. 1, 2021.

Since the middle of May the Energy Release Component at Hayfork has been hovering above or below the highest levels ever recorded at that site. The ERC is an index related to how hot a fire could burn. Extremely dry vegetation is one of the factors that can lead to high ERC levels.

With over 22,000 personnel already tied up on 72 un-contained wildfires in the country it may not be easy to staff many additional large fires.

The US Forest Service has already exhausted the list of large air tankers that are available on USFS call when needed contracts — it turned out to only be five, instead of the 16 or more the Forest Service described earlier this year. The only ones left are three military C-130’s with slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems, which for some reason have not been activated.

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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.

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