Lightning, strong winds, and showers moved into California, Nevada, and Oregon Thursday afternoon. Friday morning at about 7 a.m. the National Weather Service reported approximately 1,100 ground strikes had occurred in California.
Most of Northern California and Central Oregon received at least a small amount of rain. While some weather stations recorded none or less than 0.05″ others measured more than 0.25″.
All of the precipitation amounts below are for the 24-hour period ending at 7:10 a.m. PDT Sept. 10.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the Haypress Fire established itself on Billy’s Peak during extreme fire behavior and a six-mile run to the northeast
8:02 a.m. PDT Sept. 9, 2021
Above is an updated map of the River Complex. The largest fire is the 162,543-acre Haypress Fire. The other is the Cronan Fire which has burned 5,940 acres.
Tuesday night and Wednesday morning the Haypress Fire established itself on Billy’s Peak during extreme fire behavior and a six-mile run to the northeast.
Resources assigned include 12 hand crews; 8 helicopters; 48 engines, 18 dozers; 26 water tenders; 9 masticators; 7 skid steers; 14 mules, and 3 horses for a total of 816 personnel and 17 animals. Six residences have been destroyed.
7:54 p.m. PDT Sept. 8, 2021
A fixed wing mapping flight early Wednesday morning roughly confirmed the heat detected on the River Complex by a satellite at 3:51 a.m. Wednesday (see the map below). At the video briefing from the Incident Management Team Wednesday evening the map being used had not been updated accurately in about 24 hours. The briefing did not include any information about additional significant fire spread during the day.
Wednesday was a little more humid, there was a cloud and smoke cover, and there was much less wind at the Callahan #2 weather station, all reasons for more subdued fire activity.
Thursday’s weather forecast for Callahan predicts very little wind through Friday morning except for six to nine mph breezes from the southwest for about six hours Thursday afternoon. The area will be under a Red Flag Warning from noon Thursday to noon on Friday for the possibility of dry lighting Thursday evening and night. There is a chance for a small amount of rain Thursday night.
12:32 p.m. PDT Sept. 8, 2021
The River Fire in Northwest California near Coffee Creek was extremely active Tuesday evening. After 5 p.m. the wind shifted at the Callahan #2 weather station to come out of the southwest gusting at 15 to 26 mph with relative humidity in the teens. At a Wednesday morning briefing the Operations Section Chief said this pushed the north side of the fire about two miles to the north in the South Fork drainage along Cecileville Road, prompting the evacuation of Callahan.
The east side of the fire rapidly spread up Wolford Creek to the northeast. It spotted across Coffee Creek southeast of the footprint of the 2014 Coffee Fire and continued to the northeast and east along Coffee Creek.
The Operations Section Chief said it was “Rapid explosive fire behavior and what we have been talking about as the worst case scenario of fire growth. It was a flaming crown run in the tree tops at a rapid pace.” The fire ran for about 6.5 miles along the Coffee Creek drainage, he said, creating spot fires up to two miles ahead.
The map above shows the fire perimeter (in green) from September 7. Cloud cover Tuesday night prevented a fixed wing aircraft from mapping the entire fire. A satellite detected heat at the red dot areas shown, and they were so far from the previous perimeter I at first doubted their accuracy. Satellites and even sensors in fixed wing aircraft can sometimes falsely identify heat in a very large, intense convection column of smoke as heat on the ground. But fires typically spread more slowly and with less intensity and heat at night. The satellite overflight was at 3:51 a.m. Wednesday when typically there is no very large smoke column. These heat locations also are consistent with the descriptions by the Operations Section Chief in the Wednesday morning briefing. The bottom line: if these satellite detections exaggerate the fire spread, it is not by much.
After the fire passed through the upper reaches of Coffee Creek firefighters rescued some residents who had earlier refused to evacuate.
On Wednesday firefighters expect the fire to move toward Mosquito Flats and the communities of Coffee Creek, Callahan, and Eagle Creek. They will make sure all of the residents are out of the mandatory evacuation areas which are on a map maintained by Siskiyou County. Air tankers will drop retardant near the communities if the inversion, wind, and smoke conditions allow the safe use of aircraft.
Personnel will assess areas southwest of the community of Coffee Creek for locations to construct contingency firelines. Damage assessment teams on Wednesday will begin working their way into the recently burned area to evaluate possible damage to structures.
Lightning-caused fires, many of which started July 29, are starting to cover large portions of Northwest California with smoke. Monday afternoon the GOES 17 satellite in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth could easily detect the heat from four large fires in the extreme northwest corner of the state, as well as their extensive smoke plumes.
The fact that the River Complex of fires on the Klamath National Forest is comprised of 19 fires at last count, can give you an idea what might be out there on that forest as well as the nearby Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Monday afternoon the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations for Taylor Creek Road and surrounding areas. Some of the larger fires in the complex include, Haypress, 600 acres; Summer, 75 acres; Cronan, 165 acres; and Packers, 50 acres.
Two large fires are already well established on the Shasta-T, the McFarland and Monument Fires. Today, Monday, two or three other fires further north show up on the satellite photo.
I picked a random location for a weather forecast, 18 miles ESE of Orleans, CA and found that the conditions through Sunday August 8 will be conducive to continued fire spread with the relative humidity in the teens or low twenties, moderate wind speeds, and no chance of precipitation.
Since the middle of May the Energy Release Component at Hayfork has been hovering above or below the highest levels ever recorded at that site. The ERC is an index related to how hot a fire could burn. Extremely dry vegetation is one of the factors that can lead to high ERC levels.
With over 22,000 personnel already tied up on 72 un-contained wildfires in the country it may not be easy to staff many additional large fires.
The US Forest Service has already exhausted the list of large air tankers that are available on USFS call when needed contracts — it turned out to only be five, instead of the 16 or more the Forest Service described earlier this year. The only ones left are three military C-130’s with slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems, which for some reason have not been activated.