Spread of the Taboose Fire slows, but strong winds predicted

Forecasters expect 30 to 40 mph winds on Wednesday and Thursday, changing directions about every 12 hours

3-D map Taboose Fire
3-D map of the Taboose Fire mapped at 10 p.m. PDT September 17, 2019. Looking northwest. Click to enlarge.

(9:16 a.m. PDT Sept. 18, 2019)

After burning 10,187 acres since it started September 4, the growth of the Taboose Fire on the east slope of the Sierras slowed Tuesday. A mapping flight found that the fire added another 174 acres primarily on the south side along Taboose Creek. Firefighters took advantage of lower winds Tuesday and continued to work on fire suppression and strengthening containment lines with crews on the ground assisted by helicopter water drops.

But 30 to 40 mph winds in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday of this week could challenge firefighters, particularly on the south side in the Shingle Mill Bench area. The changing wind direction, which will shift about every 12  hours, will present even more headaches, coming from the south Wednesday, from the west Wednesday night, and out of the north Thursday and Thursday night. During this period the relative humidity at the base of the fire will be in the lower teens during the day. The wind event should be over by Friday. The area is under a Red Flag Warning until Thursday evening.

Taboose Fire
The Taboose Fire on September 8, 2019. InciWeb photo.

Most of the Taboose Fire is in the Inyo National Forest 7 miles south of Big Pine and 20 miles south of Bishop, California (see  map above). It is burning on a steep slope, from 4,700 feet on the east side up to 10,000 feet on the west where it could be running out of fuel. The ridge top at 13,000 feet is also the eastern boundary of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States is 27 miles farther south on the ridge at an elevation of 14,505 feet.

Resources assigned to the fire include 12 hand crews, 24 fire engines, and 5 helicopters for a total of 575 personnel.

270 firefighters working out of remote spike camp on the South Fire

(9:26 a.m. PDT September 14, 2019)

South Fire California
Spike Camp on the South Fire, September 12, 2019. Inciweb.

The South Fire has burned 4,094 acres on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and state protected lands since it started from a lightning strike on September 5, 28 miles west of Red Bluff, California. (see  map below)

It is burning in a very remote area with difficult access. About 270 firefighters are working out of a spike camp on a landing strip north of the fire in order to reduce travel times, but from there they still have an hour drive to get to their work assignments each day.

Below is information from the Incident Management Team on Friday:

“Firing operations on the northwest section of the fire were successful and will continue as weather permits. The fire south of Buck Camp and Hamilton Gultz had moderate fire activity and the southeast portion of the fire continues to hold within the containment lines. Fire in the Yolla-Bolly Wilderness continues to burn in a north / northwest direction towards the Syd Cabin Glade area.

“Firefighters will continue to construct direct fireline, which is the closest proximity to the fire, where they can and use natural barriers. Roads are being cleared of brush for easier access to the fire for the firefighters. Structure protection continues within and around the fire area.

“The main objective is to fully suppress the fire while providing for firefighter and public safety which is the highest priority. Firefighters continue to protect private and Forest Service infrastructure, along with natural and cultural resources, by limiting fire spread south of Cottonwood Creek and north of Nuisance Ridge and Ball Rock Road.”

map South Fire California
Map showing the location of the South Fire at 9:49 p.m. PDT September 13, 2019.
South Fire California
South Fire, September 12, 2019. Inciweb.

Bringing home Braden

Braden Varney family dozer operator fatality California
This image of the Varney family — Braden and Jessica with children Maleah and Nolan — was seen around the world with news stories about Braden’s death. Photo courtesy Cal Fire

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story you have to read, about a CAL FIRE firefighter, his wife, and two small children. Braden Varney died July 14, 2018 while building fireline with his dozer at the Ferguson Fire on the west edge of Yosemite National Park in California. No one else was around  when the 21-ton machine with Braden inside rolled 300 feet down a steep slope. Removing his remains proved to be very challenging, and progress came to a halt at one point when the fire burned through the recovery site.

The article is HERE. Be sure and view the six-minute video.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Walker Fire slowed by cooler weather

Wednesday morning the fire was under a layer of low clouds, but the forecast calls for a return to warmer and drier conditions, with strong winds on Saturday

Above: The Walker Fire was beneath a layer of clouds at 7:46 Wednesday morning. Two photos stitched together, Dyer Mountain camera, Nevada Seismo Lab.

(Originally published at 8:45 a.m. PDT Sept. 11, 2019)

The growth of the Walker Fire 17 miles south of Susanville, California slowed Tuesday due to cooler weather. The temperature reached a high of only 54 degrees while it plummeted to 38 degrees by 6:15 Wednesday morning at the Pierce weather station 5 miles north of the fire. The relative humidity after midnight was in the 80s, which can slow fire behavior, giving firefighters a chance to gain more containment.

As you can see in the photo above, the fire was under a layer of clouds at 7:46 a.m. Wednesday. Two new cameras at Dyer Mountain occasionally are pointed southeast toward the fire.

(Click here to see all articles about the Walker Fire on Wildfire Today, including the most recent.)

Much of the growth of the fire Tuesday was on the east and south portions, with the largest area of activity being around Papoose Peak. The perimeter grew by 981 acres to bring the total up to 48,321 acres

Take a flyover tour of the Walker Fire

The weather forecast for the fire area calls for a return to warmer and drier  conditions, with strong winds on Saturday. No rain is in the forecast until Monday, September 16.

Romero fire memorial site rebuilt to honor 4 killed in 1971 blaze

After 2017 Thomas Fire destroys longstanding tribute to crew members Thomas Klepperich, Leonard Mineau, Delbert DeLoach and Richard Cumor, firefighters and neighbors pitch in to replace it

Romero Fire Memorial rebuilt
A crew of firefighters gathers for a moment of silence after completing the restoration of the 1971 Romero Fire Memorial site above Summerland. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

This article by guest author Ray Ford was first published in Noozhawk, and is used here with permission.


[Noozhawk’s note: The first part of this story is taken from the author’s book, Santa Barbara Wildfires, published in 1990. The author participated in the building of the new memorial site.]

On Oct. 6, 1971, Pat Russ was driving to San Jose to visit his estranged wife when the urge to start another fire overwhelmed him.

Near Goleta he turned off Highway 101 and began driving along Cathedral Oaks, Foothill and other back roads looking for just the right spot — one that was isolated enough, with thick brush and a steep enough slope for the flames to take off.

He found the spot at about 3:30 p.m. near Bella Vista Drive between Romero Canyon and Ladera Lane in Montecito. Patrols had driven by at 9 and 10:30 a.m. and again at 2 p.m., just 90 minutes earlier.

But there was no one there to see Russ at that moment.

Turning around, carefully looking around to make sure that no one was watching, he lit the fuse on a small homemade firebomb, tossed it out the window and drove off slowly so as not to attract any attention.

He then continued on his long drive north, unaware of what he had left behind.

The fire was discovered at 3:57 p.m. by a neighbor who reported it immediately to the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Department.

Fire Blows Up
Within five minutes after the report of the fire, the smoke column had risen to 1,500 feet. Photos taken about that time indicated that the Romero Fire had already blackened 30-40 acres. During the initial attack period, lasting from 4:08 to 5 p.m., firefighting forces poured in to the area from all over the South Coast.

Romero Fire Memorial rebuilt
Stone markers are now in place at the north, east, west and south spots in the Romero Fire Memorial circle. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

But by 6 p.m. the wildfire had already spread to the crest of East Camino Cielo, burning rapidly through the grass-covered fuel break. Thankfully, because the break was wide, and the grass was burning at a low intensity, the pumpers were able to douse the flames there.

Shortly after dark, a sundowner developed, and as in the 1964 Coyote Fire, the fire line turned and began to make a downhill run, burning on a hot, wide front that swept across Bella Vista and Ladera Lane, destroying four homes.

By daylight Thursday, the fire had burned through all of Toro Canyon, from its base at Highway 192/East Valley Road to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains, an eastward spread of about 2 miles during the night. As of 6 a.m., 3,600 acres had burned.

Weather Forecast
The plan for Thursday was to hold the fire at the fuel break on the top and construct a line along the bottom flank to keep the fire from spreading down into Summerland and the Carpinteria foothills.

Continue reading “Romero fire memorial site rebuilt to honor 4 killed in 1971 blaze”

Flyover of the Walker Fire

Take a flyover tour of the fire via Google Earth

Walker Fire photo

Below is a flyover of the Walker Fire via Google Earth. The red line was the perimeter mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 10:16 p.m. PDT September 9, 2019. The fire was 17 miles south of Susanville, California and had burned 47,340 acres.

The flyover begins at the southwest corner of the fire near the “Walker Fire” pin on the map below the video.

If you’re having trouble viewing the video, you can also see it at YouTube.

Map Walker Fire
Map of the Walker Fire. The red line was the perimeter mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 10:16 p.m. PDT September 9, 2019.

(Click here to see all articles about the Walker Fire on Wildfire Today, including the most recent.)