French Fire prompts evacuations near Lake Isabella, California

The fire has burned more than 11,000 acres

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9:53 a.m. PDT August 21, 2021

French Fire map
Map of the French Fire. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:49 a.m. PDT August 21, 2021.

Friday night the French Fire west of Isabella Lake near Kernville, California grew a bit to the north and southwest while under the influence of a light and variable wind from the south, east, and southeast. (See the map above) The relative humidity which was in the 30s and 40s Friday rose into the 40s again Friday night.

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for stronger winds in the afternoon, 11 mph out of the northwest gusting to 16 mph, with the relative humidity around 40 percent. By 6 p.m. the humidity will begin climbing rapidly, reaching 80 percent by 8 p.m. and remaining above 60 percent the rest of the night.

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

The Incident Management Team reports that the fire has destroyed two structures and burned 11,295 acres. They expect the fire to continue to move toward the communities of Alta Sierra, Alta Sierra Ski Resort, Isabella Highlands Community, Dutch Flat Community, and surrounding areas. Evacuations are still in effect.

Resources assigned to the French Fire Friday evening included 28 hand crews, 52 fire engines, and 5 helicopters for a total of 883 personnel.

French Fire evacuation map
French Fire evacuation map. Accessed at 10 a.m. PDT August 21, 2021. Posted by Kern County Fire Department.

6:22 p.m. PDT August 20, 2021

The French Fire in Kern County, California started Wednesday, August 18, around 4:30 p.m. on the west side of Lake Isabella. (See map above.) On Thursday firefighters were faced with shifting winds driving the fire in several directions, but in the afternoon wind from the southwest and later the south pushed the fire northwest and north.

Friday morning 5 to 10 mph east and northeast winds gusting at 12 to 18 drove the blaze to the west and northwest, but after 3 p.m. 8 to 12 mph winds gusting out of the south at 15 to 18 mph pushed the fire vigorously to the north.

French Fire, looking south-southeast from Shirley Peak
French Fire, looking south-southeast from Shirley Peak at 1:12 p.m. PDT August 20, 2021.

The fire burned over the location of the Shirley Peak camera, but hours later it was still transmitting images of very dense smoke through a dirty lens.

At about 3 p.m. Friday InciWeb reported the following evacuation orders:

  • Wagy Flat Road east to Lake Isabella, between Old State Road south to Keyesville.
  • Keyesville south, from the intersection of Black Gulch Road and Forest Route 26S06, continuing east to Highway 155.

Kern County has posted an evacuation map.

Friday morning the fire was mapped at 4,272 acres, but the push to the north in the afternoon likely added significantly to that number.

Thursday evening resources assigned to the fire included 15 hand crews, 47 engines, and 5 helicopters for a total of 650 personnel. On Friday the number of personnel had increased to 809.

The GOES-17 satellite could easily photograph the smoke plume Friday afternoon as the intensity increased significantly.

French Fire satellite photo
French Fire, photographed by GOES-17 at 5:36 p.m. PDT August 20, 2021.
French Fire 1249 p.m. PDT August 20, 2021
French Fire. The red dots represent heat detected at 12:49 p.m. PDT August 20, 2021. Later in the afternoon the wind shifted and drove the fire to the north. The finger of red dots on the west side turned out to be false positives.

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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.

8 thoughts on “French Fire prompts evacuations near Lake Isabella, California”

  1. Re: the French Fire CA, The evac map with active fire area is so helpful. The narrative is very good, too.
    Thank you !!!!

  2. I don’t understand why we let it burn instead of getting help from other counties or states to put the fire off asap. Poor trees! We know how long it takes for them to grow to that size.

  3. I agree with Chriatina. Save the trees and the animals while you are saving people and buildings!

  4. we should keep people out of forest areas they have also caused a lot of fires when I was a kid I always wondered why they let people camp and make camp fires I always thought that was dangerous. gee guess I was right even as a kid was I starter then the rangers at that young age

  5. Yes, please, especially, save the animals, & make sure they’re brought indoors, for safety! Some idiots are leaving their dogs outside, where the air quality is so poor, it could possibly harm them! ???

  6. I disagree with saving every tree. Trees need space. They’re dying off because we’ve stopped thinning them out, which is what we should be doing. We are getting so many fires partly because there are lots of dead trees among the live ones. It’s good to cut your own Christmas tree. That used to be done. Anyone could take a tree. That thins the crowded forrests out, keeping the trees healthy. It’s not healthy to have crowded forests. And it’s totally dangerous for people who live in un-thinned forests. Listen to the firemen. They know this.

  7. Also another big deal is the damn bore beetles, out of the photos you see evergreens brown and dead that makes forest fires rage on.think of the forest animals suffering to death.please help them, everyone of us can leave some water and food and build small shelters, to give them a chance against these damn arsonist.this is a much neede discussion that needs to be looked into.also what happened to the convicts that routinely maintained high dead growth.this needs to be put back in place.also goats and sheep clearing a lot and yes logging the right way etc. etc. etc,

  8. I know all kinds of comments will come down on me, but I hate fires and have shed many tears over the loss of life, both human, creature, and trees, from forest fires. But how did things go before mankind put his big nose in the earth’s problems? Whether we start fires out of anger or by accident, or fires happen naturally, the forests burn. If we did not live in them and did not interfere with the balance of nature, forests would live and die naturally. Thin the trees? Burn the brush? Cut down live Christmas trees while you trample nature underfoot, all so you can get the “perfect” tree to haul to the dump after the holidays? I say leave nature alone. If we don’t hunt deer or doves or whatever, nature governs itself regulates itself. That is why it WAS called the BALANCE of nature.. Man has interfered with everything natural, which I believe has caused climate change, and hence fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, whatever world-wide. We are reaping what we have sown out of greed. So call me a tree-hugger, because I am. I hate what we have done to the earth, the animals, the trees. It is a vicious circle now. We need to take a step back and see how we can stop interfering in nature and leave it alone. Nothing is sacred anymore. Just my opinion.

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