Pawnee Fire in Lake County, California continues to spread east and south.

Above: 3-D Map of the Pawnee Fire looking north at 10:43 p.m. PDT June 25, 2018. The shaded areas indicate where the fire was very active.

(Originally published at 8:52 a.m. PDT June 26, 2018
(UPDATED at 1:27 p.m. PDT June 26, 2018)

The Pawnee Fire in Lake County, California continued to spread actively south and east Monday. It has not spotted across Indian Valley Reservoir, but burned around the south end of it in a long finger that ran uphill for 2.5 miles and kept going when it crossed Bartlett Springs Road at the top of a ridge. Additional spread to the east beyond that point should be slower on the downhill slope to the valley below.

The Governor’s office has declared a state of emergency for Lake County. According to CAL FIRE the Pawnee Fire has destroyed 22 structures and 600 others remained threatened. Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for the entire Spring Valley community which is now virtually surrounded by blackened hills. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has more information about evacuations.

Monday afternoon CAL FIRE reported that the fire had burned 10,500 acres, and Tuesday morning updated it to 11,500 — which is a very conservative number.

The weather forecast for the rest of this week for the fire area does not predict any extreme fire weather, with highs around 90, wind less than 10 mph, and relative humidity in the teens or low 20s. However, these conditions will not cause the fire to lie down. Firefighters will still have their hands full.

During the previous three years residents of Lake County have been seriously threatened by three other fires, the Rocky and Valley Fires of 2015 and the Clayton Fire of 2016. It is possible that the Pawnee Fire could burn into the footprint of the Rocky Fire, slowing its spread to the southeast.

rocky fire valley fire clayton fire pawnee fire
Map of the perimeter of the Pawnee Fire at 10:43 p.m. PDT June 25, 2018. Also shown are the perimeters of the Rocky (2015), Valley (2015), and Clayton (2016) Fires.

Resources assigned to the fire include:

  • 110 Engines
  • 35 Hand crews
  • 15 Helicopters
  • 58 Dozers
  • 10 Water tenders
  • 1,422 personnel, total
Map perimeterPawnee Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Pawnee Fire at 10:43 p.m. PDT June 25, 2018. The shaded areas indicate where the fire was very active.

Clayton Fire burns more than 175 structures near Lower Lake, California

The fire is burning near the scars from three very large fires from 2015

(UPDATED at 7:35 p.m. PDT August 16, 2016)

The Clayton Fire grew by 67 acres on Monday, but it was on the northeast side near the footprint of last year’s Rocky Fire.  This brings the size of the burned area up to 3,945 acres.


(UPDATED at 8:40 p.m. PDT August 15, 2016)

CAL FIRE is now reporting that the size of the Clayton Fire at Lower Lake, California is estimated at 4,000 acres. There has been no change in the number of structures burned.

A man has been arrested for starting the Clayton Fire and numerous others. Below is an excerpt from an article in The San Francisco Chronicle:

County officials arrested a 40-year-old Clear Lake man Monday on 17 counts of arson related to numerous fires set over the last year, including the 4,000-acre Clayton Fire that has so far claimed 175 buildings and displaced hundreds of people.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin and Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott announced the arrest of Damin Pashilk at a community meeting packed with evacuees at a casino doubling as a Red Cross shelter south of the blaze. Residents gasped at the announcement.

“All 17 counts resulted from a very extensive investigation of numerous fire starts over the last year,” Pimlott said.


(UPDATED at 9:03 a.m. PDT August 15, 2016)

CAL FIRE public information officer Daniel Berlant reported at 9 a.m. on Monday that the Clayton Fire has burned approximately 175 structures.


(UPDATED at 7:33 a.m. PDT August 15, 2016)

The Clayton Fire burned into the community of Lower Lake, California Sunday afternoon preceded by spot fires started from the burning embers the wind threw out ahead of the blaze igniting many homes and businesses.

At 6:45 a.m. on Monday CAL FIRE estimated that “100+” structures and 3,000 acres have burned.

The fire started Saturday and had died down Sunday morning, but strong erratic winds developed that pushed the fire very rapidly to the north into Lower Lake.

The fire occurred in an area that experienced three large fires in 2015, the Valley, Rocky, and Jerusalem Fires which together burned approximately 159,000 acres.

The Twitter images below are from Sunday afternoon.


Originally published at 8:32 p.m. PDT August 14, 2016 Updated at 10:06 p.m. PDT August 14.).

CAL FIRE reports that as of 8 p.m. on Sunday the Clayton Fire has burned 10 structures, including at least 4 residences, near Lower Lake, California, just southeast of Clearlake and 31 air miles northeast of Santa Rosa.

Based on reports from other sources, the actual number of structures destroyed is likely to rise.

After the fire started at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 13, it burned aggressively north, crossing Morgan Valley Road and Cache Creek, impacting the communities of Lower Lake and Clearlake. St. Helena Hospital in Clearlake has been evacuated. Additional structures are threatened and mandatory evacuations are in place.

Continue reading “Clayton Fire burns more than 175 structures near Lower Lake, California”

10,000 firefighters battling fires in California

map wildfires in northwest California
Heat detected within the last 24 hours on wildfires in northwest California.

Over 10,000 firefighters are battling 19 active fires in California. The Rocky Fire near Clearlake that attracted the most attention that burned 43 homes and required thousands to evacuate has rapidly increasing containment and repopulation has started. The other 18 fires are mostly scattered around the north half of the state, with the most activity occurring in the northwest corner on the Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity National Forests.

These two maps show heat that was detected on wildfires by a satellite within the last 24 hours — one map has fire names and the other is naked. The red dots are the most recently detected heat sources.

wildfires in northwest California
Heat detected within the last 24 hours on wildfires in northwest California.

Below are quick summaries of the 19 fires provided by CAL FIRE:

  **CAL FIRE Incidents**

Rocky Fire, Lake, Colusa & Yolo County
East of Lower Lake
*69,600 acres – 45% contained
*Repopulation efforts started

Humboldt Lightning Fires, Humboldt County
Throughout Humboldt County
*75 fires totaling 4,062 acres – 35% contained
*Evacuations lifted in the Blocksburg

Lowell Fire, Nevada County
You Bet area, west of Alta
*2,304 acres – 90% contained

**Unified Command Incidents**

Fork Complex, Trinity County
US Forest Service – Shasta-Trinity National Forest / CAL FIRE
South of Hyampom
*14,434 acres – 9% contained

**Federal Incidents**

River Complex, Trinity County
US Forest Service – Shasta-Trinity National Forest
New River Drainage, near Denny
*10,912 acres – 1%

Continue reading “10,000 firefighters battling fires in California”

Firefighters making more progress on the Rocky Fire

(UPDATE at 7:21 a.m. PT, August 8, 2015)

The Rocky Fire east of Clearlake, California, was quiet again on Friday. The satellite did not detect any large heat sources on the blaze that CAL FIRE is calling 69,636 acres and 62 percent contained. Many areas have been repopulated but others are still under mandatory evacuation orders.

Almost 3,000 personnel are assigned to the fire, as well as 195 engines and 84 hand crews.


(UPDATE at 9:47 p.m. PT, August 5, 2015)

Firefighters on the Rocky Fire east of Clearlake, California had another successful day — for the second day in a row keeping the additional acres burned to less than 100. A mapping flight at 7 p.m. Wednesday determined that 37 acres were added, bringing the total to 68,924.

Today CAL FIRE updated the number of structures destroyed to 43 residences and 53 outbuildings.

Map Rocky Fire
Map of the Rocky Fire (in red) at 7 p.m. PT August 5, 2015. The green line was the perimeter the day before. (click to enlarge)

The mapping flight was earlier than usual, perhaps because one of the two USFS infrared (IR) line scanning aircraft is down for major planned maintenance, leaving a large workload for the single remaining IR ship operated by the US Forest Service. It’s an inopportune time for planned maintenance that sometimes must be done with a certain number of hours on the aircraft. But thankfully the ship carrying the load is a twin-engine jet-powered Cessna Citation that cruises at over 450 mph so it can visit many fires during its shift.

USFS IR aircraft, Cessna Citation Bravo
One of the U.S. Forest Service’s Infrared aircraft, a Cessna Citation Bravo, N144Z USFS photo.

The jet’s daily grand tour of wildfires is usually at night because there is more of a difference between the temperatures of the ground and the fire, making it easier for the fire to be detected. Just one quick pass is all that’s required of a fire that’s up to several thousand acres — more are needed for very large blazes such as the complexes of scores of scattered fires burning in northern California on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest that are scanned as one large “box”, requiring six passes on a recent night.

But back to the Rocky Fire. The weather conditions on Wednesday were warmer and drier than the day before, but they were not extreme; lets call them moderate, at least for California. And about the same is in the forecast for Thursday. Firefighters deserve kudos for limiting the spread to much, much less that we were seeing several days ago.

On the map of the fire above, only a few changes in the perimeter can be picked out (if you click on the map to enlarge it). Two are on the north side where the fire jumped across Highway 20. The other is on the southeast side.

The resources assigned to the fire include 3,483 personnel, 323 engines, 87 hand crews, 17 helicopters, and 63 dozers.


(The article below was originally published at 10:24 a.m. PT, August 5, 2015)

Rocky Fire
A firing operation on the Rocky Fire August 3, 2015. Photo by Stuart Palley used with permission.

On Tuesday firefighters got a temporary break from extreme weather and fire behavior on the Rocky Fire east of Clearlake, California. A small amount of rain was reported in some areas of the fire, however the Knoxville Creek weather station on the southeast side did not record any precipitation.

The fire perimeter is still virtually the same as was shown on the map we posted August 4.

There was very little additional growth of the Rocky Fire Tuesday. A total of 76 acres were added, which occurred on the north side where it spotted across Highway 20, and on the southeast side west of Highway 16. A mapping flight at 10 p.m. Tuesday updated the size to 68,886 acres.

CAL FIRE updated the number of structures destroyed to 39 residences and 52 outbuildings. They caution that the numbers may increase as damage assessment teams are able to access the burned areas.

Mandatory evacuations are still in effect for many areas, affecting about 13,000 residents. Other areas are under evacuation advisories.

The high temperature of 75 degrees Tuesday occurred at 10 a.m. and it actually dropped to 69 at 3 p.m. thanks to clouds that moved in. The relative humidity increased to 58 percent at 3 p.m. and then decreased as the sky cleared somewhat.

Conditions will change on Wednesday as the forecast predicts 89 degrees, 24 percent relative humidity, clear skies, and winds out of the east at 3 to 6 mph.

Rocky Fire, east of Clearlake, California

(Our previous article about the Rocky Fire near Clearlake, California had been updated many times and was becoming large, so we are starting fresh with this article beginning August 2. It will continue to be updated.)

(An updated report on the Rocky Fire was published the morning of August 5, 2015)


(UPDATE at 6 a.m. PT, August 4, 2015)

Map Rocky Fire
Map of the Rocky Fire at 2:30 a.m. PT, August 4, 2015 (in red). The perimeter from the day before is in pink. (click to enlarge)

Yesterday we wrote that firefighters had been able to keep the Rocky Fire from crossing Highways 20 and 16. That changed Monday afternoon when airborne burning embers northeast of Clearlake, California started multiple spot fires across Highway 20. Some of the new fires merged (see the map above), leaving two large fingers of fire, one of them three miles long, heading north coming within three miles of Indian Valley Reservoir.

The good news is that the fire grew very little in other areas. It is still primarily west of Highway 16 and the perimeter on the south and southwest sides has expanded only a small amount over the last 24 hours.

Tuesday morning at 2:30 a mapping flight determined that the fire has blackened 68,810 acres.

CAL FIRE is still reporting 24 residences and 26 outbuildings destroyed by the Rocky Fire. Evacuations have affected at least 13,118 residents in 5,530 residences.

On Monday the Air National Guard’s Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers recently activated flew 7 sorties dropping 20,476 gallons of fire retardant on the Rocky Fire.

The spotting across Highway 20 occurred in the afternoon during a period when winds out of the south were gusting up to 18 mph and the relative humidity reached a low of 16 percent. The forecast for Tuesday is for 83 degrees, 27 percent RH, winds out of the east then southeast at 2 to 7 mph, and mostly cloudy skies in the afternoon until 5 p.m. These weather conditions should moderate the fire activity compared to what firefighters saw on Monday.


(UPDATED at 6 a.m. PT, August 3, 2015)

map of Rocky Fire 630 pm PT August 2, 2015
Map showing in red the perimeter of the Rocky Fire at 6:30 p.m. PT, August 2, 2015. The perimeter from 16 hours before is shown in yellow. (Click to enlarge)

Firefighters continue to battle the Rocky Fire east of Clearlake and Lower Lake, California, which has grown to 60,000 acres. They are having some success on the north and east sides where the spread of the fire has been stopped in some places, for now, along Highways 20 and 16. But there is still a great deal of uncontrolled fire edge that must be dealt with.

The two highways, 20 and 16, are closed. CAL FIRE reports that evacuations are impacting over 12,000 residents, but that number has not been updated in a while. The number of residences destroyed, according to their information, remains at 24.

There was good relative humidity recovery overnight when it increased to 84 percent by 5 a.m., but it will slowly decrease on Monday to a low of  24 percent by 3 p.m. The maximum temperature will be 85 and in the afternoon the 2 mph southeast wind will increase to 10 mph out of the southwest around 5 p.m. These conditions on Monday morning will give firefighters a chance to make some headway on containing the fire, at least until mid-afternoon.

**** (UPDATED at 8:39 p.m. PT, August 2, 2015) CAL FIRE is calling the Rocky Fire east of Clearlake, California 54,000 acres and 5 percent contained as of Sunday evening.


(Originally published at 9:35 a.m. PT, August 2, 2015)

The Rocky Fire east of Clearlake, California more than doubled in size on Saturday. CAL FIRE reported that it had burned 22,500 acres on Saturday morning, and a mapping flight at 2 a.m. Sunday determined that it had exploded, again, and has now blackened 47,000 acres. Two highways in the area are closed, Highways 20 and 16. (See the map below.)

The weather conditions on Saturday were fairly conducive to significant fire spread — 95 degrees, 21 percent relative humidity, and southwest winds at 8 mph gusting up to 17. The forecast for Sunday is somewhat more moderate — 90 degrees, 32 percent RH, and winds switching from the west to south at 2 mph increasing to 9 mph in the afternoon.

Combined with low vegetation (fuel) moisture, another 25,000 acres went up in smoke Saturday as the fire spread to the north and east coming close to, and in some areas reaching, Highway 20 on the north and 16 on the east. CAL FIRE reported at 7:45 Sunday morning that the fire had not crossed the roads. Firefighters were burning out or backfiring ahead of the fire in some places along the highways.

Map Rocky Fire
Map of the Rocky Fire at 2 a.m. PT August 2, 2015 (the red line). The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before. (click to enlarge)

The Rocky Fire has destroyed 24 residences and 26 outbuildings, according to CAL FIRE. Evacuations have impacted over 12,190 citizens living in 5,201 residences.

Rocky Fire August 1, 2015
Rocky Fire, August 1, 2015. CAL FIRE photo.

Satellite photo of smoke from west coast fires

smoke west coast wildfires

The photo above shows smoke that is being created by the fires in northern California and southwest Oregon. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite on the fires. Generally to the west, or left, of the red dots you can see the white smoke being blown to the west. The rest of the white on the image is clouds. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The satellite image was captures in the late afternoon on Friday.

The Rocky Fire is threatening towns northwest of Sacramento, California, including Clearlake, Lower Lake, and Twin Lake.

Dozens of new lightning-caused fires have been detected in the last 24 hours on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest between Redding and Eureka, California in northwest California.

The Stouts Fire 10 miles east of Canyonville, Oregon exploded to 6,500 acres within 12 hours after it started on Thursday.

To see the most current smoke reports on Wildfire Today, visit the articles tagged “smoke” at