A firefighter has died on the El Dorado Fire in Southern California

The wildfire started from gender-reveal party pyrotechnics

Forest Service fatality

The U.S. Forest Service announced in a news release this morning that a firefighter was killed while working on the El Dorado Fire in Southern California Thursday, September 17, 2020. Neither the name nor the circumstances were released.

CBS News reported that the firefighter had been missing.

Crews had been trying to locate the firefighter, who went missing in the San Bernardino National Forest while fighting the El Dorado Fire, officials said Thursday night, CBS Los Angeles reported. The firefighter was found dead, according to San Bernardino National Forest Public Information Officer Kate Kramer.

This blaze which has burned about 19,000 acres and destroyed 4 homes was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party September 5, 2020.

The fire is northeast of Yucaipa just west of the Apple Fire that burned 33,000 acres 5 weeks ago.

Our sincere condolences go out to the firefighter’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

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Southwest Oregon and Northwest California — a hotbed of fire activity for at least 20 years

map history of fires in Northwest California and Southwest Oregon
A partial history of fires in Northwest California and Southwest Oregon, 2000 through Sept 17, 2020.

The Northwest California/Southwest Oregon area has kept firefighters very busy at times during the last 20 years, as you can see on the map above.

A new fire is rapidly putting itself into that history. The Slater Fire reported September 8 grew to 89,000 acres by September 9 and has now spread to 150,000 acres. That growth, however, has slowed in the last several days.

It started northeast of Happy Camp, California and ran north into Oregon then took a left and crossed Highway 199. It has come to within about four miles of the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

If recent fire history is any indication, the Slater Fire may not even slow down when and if it reaches the Biscuit burn, and of course it depends on the weather, which has moderated this week. The 2017 Chetco Bar Fire and the 2018 Klondike Fire burned for miles into the then 17 or 18-year old fire scar. The entire eastern two-thirds of the Chetco Bar Fire was in the footprint.

Strong winds that drove the dozens of fires September 8 in Oregon are not super rare. The Klondike Fire west of Grants Pass started July 15, 2018. In early October it had become virtually dormant, but a few hot spots were revitalized by an east wind event on the 14th. According to an article in the Mail Tribune the suddenly vigorous fire was transporting burning embers that started spot fires six miles out ahead of the flaming front:

“Extreme spotting” propelled fine embers up to six miles ahead of the main fire, dropping the live ash right between firefighters’ tents and close to people’s homes.

“We even had to move our own fire camp,”  [information officer Kale] Casey said.

So if the weather this year is anything like it was two years ago, firefighters could be busy in the area for at least another month.

Slater Fire
Slater Fire, Sept. 15, 2020. InciWeb.

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Bobcat Fire crosses Angeles Crest Highway

Updated maps of the Southern California fire

map of the Bobcat Fire
3-D map of the Bobcat Fire. The red line was the perimeter as mapped by an aircraft at 10:48 p.m. MDT Sept. 15, 2020. Looking north-northeast.

The north end of the Bobcat fire has burned across the Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy. 2) burning approximately 800 acres on the north side near Waterman Mountain and Cooper Canyon.

Seven air tankers were used to help firefighters contain the spot fires north of the highway until about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when smoke limited the visibility. When the smoke cleared at 3:30 several tankers were again used.

Firefighters are holding on to what has been accomplished on the rest of the fire over the last few days near the foothill communities and Mt. Wilson Observatory. Crews are strengthening the lines and looking for opportunities to attack the fire directly. Additional strategic firing may occur as necessary to secure the lines, including along along Highway 39.

The blaze is burning on the mountain slopes above the communities of Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, and Duarte.

Firefighters conduct firing operation Bobcat Fire
Firefighters conduct firing operation on the Bobcat Fire, Sept. 14, 2020. InciWeb.
map of the Bobcat Fire
Map of the Bobcat Fire. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:42 a.m. PDT Sept 16, 2020. The red line was the perimeter when mapped by an aircraft at 10:48 p.m. MDT Sept. 15, 2020.

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El Dorado Fire approaches Highway 38 near Angelus Oaks, increasing the threat to the mountain communities

The fire is 6 miles south of Big Bear Lake in southern California

map of the El Dorado Fire
3-D map of the El Dorado Fire at 11:44 p.m. PDT Sept 14, 2020; looking east.

The El Dorado Fire slowly burned down slope towards the Angelus Oaks community Monday night allowing fire resources the opportunity to secure indirect and direct firelines in preparation for active fire Tuesday. Firefighters are prepared to conduct firing operations around Angeles Oaks if needed using hand crews and fire engine crews.

The portion of the fire north of Oak Glen has not spread much in recent days but it was very active Monday and Tuesday south and east of Angelus Oaks where it ran over the ridge and is working its way down to Highway 38 east of the community.

The fire is northeast of Yucaipa, California just west of the Apple Fire that burned 33,000 acres 5 weeks ago, and it is 6 miles south of Big Bear Lake.

Tuesday there was an 8 to 10 mph wind gusting to 20 mph above the 6,000 foot elevation. The weather remains hot and dry. Officials said the fire could align with topography and burn actively upslope towards the San Bernardino Peak (northeast) towards the Lake Fire scar. The threat has increased for the mountain communities north of Highway 38.

The incident management team is having difficulty obtaining the firefighting resources they need.

This blaze which has blackened 17,532 acres and destroyed 4 homes was started by a pyrotechnic device used at a gender reveal party September 5, 2020.

According to the National Situation Report, resources assigned to the fire include 19 hand crews, 205 fire engines, and 11 helicopters for a total of 1,319 personnel.

map of the El Dorado Fire
Map of the El Dorado Fire at 11:44 p.m. PDT Sept 14, 2020.
El Dorado Fire, Sept 11, 2020
El Dorado Fire, Sept 11, 2020. InciWeb.

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