Population density near the King Fire

King Fire population density 9-17-2014
King Fire population density. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite on September 17, 2014. Smoke is drifting to the north and northeast. The beige and brown colors are population density, with the darker colors being the most heavily populated. Lake Tahoe is the large lake on the right side, Sacramento is at the lower left, and Reno is at the upper right. NASA imagery. (click to enlarge)

The image above is based on a satellite photo of the King Fire, between Placerville and Lake Tahoe, California. It was taken on September 17, the day the fire made a huge 16-mile run to the northeast adding 52,400 acres, growing from 18,544 acres to 70,944 acres, almost tripling in size in 24 hours. The photo was taken near the beginning of the big run that day.

Pyrocumulus clouds can be seen above the smoke.

An overlay shows the population density, with the darker colors being the most heavily populated.

More maps and information about the King Fire.

Man charged with arson for starting the King Fire

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office has arrested a man for intentionally starting what has become the 73,184-acre King Fire west of Lake Tahoe, California. Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, of Pollock Pines was charged Thursday morning with a single count of arson of forest land. The charges include a special allegation — arson with aggravating factors. The complaint said those factors are:

A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the offense.

Wayne Allen Huntsman
Wayne Allen Huntsman

The criminal complaint, below, shows four past felonies, including three 1997 convictions in Santa Cruz County which include assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft and auto theft.

CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers, in conjunction with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office cooperated to bring the charges against Mr. Huntsman.

Several media outlets are reporting that he is being held in lieu of $10-million bail.

DA Announces Filing of Criminal Complaint Against Wayne Allen Huntsman

King Fire almost triples in size

The King Fire west of Lake Tahoe in California grew from 18,544 acres to 70,944 acres on Wednesday, almost tripling in size in 24 hours, running for 16 miles through the El Dorado National Forest. It is now between Hell Hole and French Meadows Reservoirs in Placer County, 12 miles from Olympic Valley, 13 miles from the west shore of Lake Tahoe, and 20 miles from Truckee.

Map King Fire
Map of the King Fire. The red line is the perimeter just after midnight early Thursday morning, 9-18-2014. The yellow line is from about 24 hours before. (click to enlarge)

Evacuations have affected 2,155 people.

The fire is being fought by 3,700 personnel. Last year the 257,000-acre Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park had over 5,000 people assigned — this fire may come close to that personnel figure, especially if it continues to add over 50,000 acres a day.

Smoke from the fire is affecting air quality in Boise, Idaho this morning. We have a map showing the distribution of smoke across the western United States as of Thursday morning.

Below is a report from the incident management team describing fire activity Wednesday night:

The fire continued to burn actively throughout the night. However: due to the day’s extreme fire behavior, steep terrain, inaccessibility, variable wind direction, and darkness it was unsafe to approach the north portion of the fire to directly observe the fire behavior. [Through] field observations and Infrared imagery it was determined that the fire made a run of over ten miles to the north between the hours of 1600 and 0600. Spot fires were observed up to three miles ahead of the main fire front.

Our primary and continuing coverage of the King Fire is HERE. If you would like to comment or ask questions, please post them on that article.

Fire shelter deployment on the King Fire

(UPDATED at 3:21 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

CAL FIRE PIO Daniel Berlant sent this tweet at 2:53 p.m. PDT:

This afternoon a CAL FIRE captain & inmate crew deployed their shelters on #KingFire (El Dorado Co.) All are accounted, no reported injuries

Here is another tweet sent by Mr. Berlant:


(UPDATED at 2:59 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

All of the firefighters are in helicopters, en route to an airport.


(UPDATED at 2:52 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The 12 firefighters who deployed fire shelters and then ran and walked a long distance to escape from the King Fire 11 miles east of Placerville, California, have reached the landing zone where a helicopter will extract them.


(UPDATED at 2:42 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The drinking water was delivered to the 12 escaping firefighters at the top of the hill at  2:33 p.m. (see the 3-D map below).  From there they still have to hike downhill and then on flat ground 1,000 to 2,000 yards to the landing zone. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) overhead is in constant contact with the firefighters, giving them directions as they hike.

Extraction route
The pointer is at the location where the water for the escaping firefighters will be dropped off. (The map looks to the east.) The firefighters from that point will hike downhill to the extraction point. (click to enlarge)


(UPDATED at 2:23 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The firefighters are still hiking to a point where a helicopter can land so that they can be extracted. They have to hike uphill and then down the other side. The Helicopter Coordinator (HLCO) coordinating the rescue effort estimates they will reach the landing zone at approximately 2:35 p.m. PDT. The firefighters have run out of drinking water (or previously dumped all of their gear so they could run faster) and are having some heat-related problems, including cramping. A helicopter has been instructed to deliver, presumably by sling load, several cases of drinking water to the firefighters before they reach the extraction point.

At least one helicopter is being rigged with a hoist in case that is needed to extract them from a point where a ship can’t land.

Three ambulances have been ordered to be at the airport where the helicopters will drop off the firefighters.


(UPDATED at 1:50 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014)

The helicopter pilot escorting the 12 firefighters on their escape route told them they were safe at 1:48 p.m. “You guys are looking real good right now”, one of the pilots said. There was talk about getting a large helicopter to drop some water for dust abatement so that another ship could land and pick them up.


(Originally posted at 1:27 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2014; updated at 1:32 p.m. PDT, September 15, 2015)

At about 1 p.m. PDT on Monday there was a fire shelter deployment on the King Fire, which is burning 11 miles east of Placerville, California north of the community of Pollock Pines. In listening to the radio traffic, a Division Supervisor talking to Air Attack said a Task Force was overrun by fire, they were in a safety zone, but they were safe. He requested air support, but there was too much smoke for fixed wing air tankers to get in to the area.

Air Attack, as of 1:15 p.m. PDT was checking to see if helicopters could work the area, but when the incident unfolded they were all on the ground getting fuel. Later at about 1:25 p.m. PDT at least one helicopter with water was over the incident watching firefighters running, carrying fire shelters. The pilot was holding on to his water in case there was a major need for it later. He was giving the firefighters directions, saying “keep moving”.

One alternative considered was to extract the firefighters using a water bucket carried by a helicopter.

Someone else on the fire said they had five vehicles that were available to rescue the trapped firefighters, but the road to the area had just been overrun by a very intense fire and they were advised by a pilot to not try it.

There was also a report on the radio of a dozer that burned up, but there was “accountability for the operator”.

Our regular coverage of the King Fire.

California: King Fire near Pollock Pines

(UPDATE at 10:49 a.m. PDT, September 27, 2014)

King Fire, Sunset Camp, September 25, 2014. Provided by the Incident Management Team, uncredited.
King Fire, Sunset Camp, September 25, 2014. Provided by the Incident Management Team, uncredited.

The King Fire east of Placerville, California was slowed by rain on September 25, but the incident management team is still showing a modest increase in the size —  now at 97,099 acres, an increase of 1,752 over the last two days.

King Fire progression map
King Fire progression map, September 27, 2014. 

The numbers:

  • Current Acreage Burned: 97,099
  • Percent Containment (according to the Incident Management Team): 78%
  • Structures Damaged or Destroyed: 80 (12 residences, 68 others)
  • Injuries: 6
  • Structures Threatened: 289
  • Cause: Arson
  • People Evacuated: none
  • Total Personnel Assigned: 6,497
  • Other resources assigned: 172 hand crews, 418 engines, 21 helicopters
  • Fire suppression costs to date: $77,000,000

Current Situation Zone 1 (north portion): Fire crews continue to patrol, mop up, hold, and improve existing control lines throughout Zone 1. Rain showers and isolated thunderstorms Friday night have assisted in the efforts of further containment and are forecasted to continue throughout the day on Saturday. The demobilization process continues.

Current Situation Zone 2 (south portion): Temperatures will continue to be cool with the chance of showers and thunderstorms expected throughout the day on Saturday. Crews continue to mop up, hold, and improve existing control lines. Fire Suppression Repair Teams are preparing to work in the areas affected by the fire. The demobilization process continues to release excess resources while maintaining an adequate amount to meet the needs of the incident. In an effort to prevent the spread of non-native weeds and diseases within the forest, a vehicle rinse station has been established using water conservation measures and run off containment.

King Fire Base Camp
King Fire Base Camp. Provided by the Incident Management Team, undated, uncredited.

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