River Fire burns thousands of acres near Colfax, Calif.

Evacuations are in effect

10:37 a.m. PDT August 5, 2021

River Fire map
River Fire map at 7:20 p.m. PDT Aug 4, 2021. The yellow areas represent intense heat when the fire was mapped.

Fire officials said in a briefing Wednesday evening that the River Fire west of Colfax, California had damaged or destroyed approximately 35 to 40 structures, but that number is preliminary and could change. Approximately 4,000 structures were threatened as of Wednesday evening.

The fire started at about 2 p.m. Wednesday and had spread for more than four miles when it was mapped at 7:20 p.m. that night. (see map above) Thursday morning CAL FIRE was calling it 2,400 acres.

The south end of the fire generally followed the Bear River drainage which comes out of Rollins Reservoir, then continued to the north-northeast as it spread to the Chicago Park area on Highway 174.

In an 8 p.m. briefing on Wednesday law enforcement officials said 2,400 people were under an evacuation order in Placer County. There were 4,200 under either evacuation orders or warnings in Nevada County.

The fire was pushed Wednesday afternoon by 5 to 8 mph winds gusting at 12 to 17 mph out of the south, southwest, and west while the humidity was in the teens and the temperature 95 degrees. The very dry fuels were receptive to burning embers that started numerous spot fires which burned together resulting in “area ignition”, as described in a briefing Wednesday evening.

Similar to Wednesday, on Thursday the Colfax area is surrounded by, but not officially within, a Red Flag Warning. The forecast for Thursday is for 85 degrees, 14 percent RH, and 8 to 10 mph southwest winds. On Friday it will be warmer (95 degrees) and drier with 9 mph winds out of the west.

Satellite photo, smoke from California fires
Satellite photo, smoke from California fires at 7:01 p.m. PDT Aug 4, 2021.

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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.

5 thoughts on “River Fire burns thousands of acres near Colfax, Calif.”

  1. You aren’t reporting enough where the River Fire is headed up to date! Where is it headed? It’s not even mentioned barely except old news on the River Fire. I’m fairly close to area and anxious. You do not have good maps nor good information!!!!!

  2. As a Cal Fire veteran I can say that Cal Fire and the Contract Counties do initial attack with everything available and they do it very well. This doesn’t always work due to many factors but if things do go down the toilet it’s usually not for lack of trying. The IA on the River Fire was textbook – Hit it hard with every available tool, i.e., aircraft, engines, and crews. Aircraft didn’t stop this fire, but they sure held it enough to give the ground troops enough time to get in there and go to work. I watched the air show on FlightRadar24, and couldn’t believe it when the MAFF’s showed up on IA. I can say that I’ve never heard or seen MAFF aircraft being used IA before. I’m thinking that the 747 would have come in handy on this incident too. It’s too bad that tool has been removed from the aircraft inventory for whatever reason.

    1. Fortunately it was a daytime start only minutes away from McClellan. Cal Fire is pretty impressive. I had gone to a flight tracker in the afternoon to check on air ops on the Dixie Fire. Virtually nothing visible so I backtracked to Chico then McClellan. That’s when I discovered the young River Fire. It was an air circus for sure. Impressive, indeed! LR

  3. Dr. Gabbert has said it many times on this site, OVERWHELMING FORCE ON INITIAL ATTACK That was the Rx that Cal Fire used on this fire, and all their fires. A 2600 acre STOP in this fuel types, terrain, homes and people everywhere. plus poor access for fire equipment, incredible. At the height of the “air show” there was 10 (F.S. contracted) LATS and VLATS and unknow number of States S2T. Lots of hard work from cooperating agencies and private vendors (dozer guys) including the Tahoe Hot Shots, and probably other Forest Service engines and crews.


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