Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fire Crews Brace for Hotter, Drier Conditions; Wind May Push Smoke to Eureka

Posted By on Sat, Sep 26, 2020 at 11:07 AM

click to enlarge U.S. FOREST SERVICE
  • U.S. Forest Service
The Red Salmon Complex

The fire complex burning about 8 miles northeast of Willow Creek has grown by nearly 2,000 acres since yesterday’s report, and now spans more than 110,000 acres of mostly national forest lands and is 31 percent contained.

The fire, sparked July 27 by a lightning strike, is burning in Klamath, Six Rivers and Shasta-Trinity national forests, with its western edge abutting the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Milder weather conditions have aided firefighting efforts in recent days, according to a U.S. Forest Service update, but that’s expected to change.

“A warming and drying trend is expected Sunday through Monday, and Red Flag or near Red Flag conditions may occur,” the update states. “These dryer, warmer conditions will impact fire behavior and crews are adjusting firefighting strategies in anticipation of this event.”

The update notes that crews are conducting firing operations “in order to mitigate the potential for the fire to spread toward the Hoopa Valley Reservation.”

The Klamath and Six Rivers national forests will remain closed at least through Sept. 30.

Read the full U.S. Forest Service Update here.

The Slater and Devil Fires

The Slater and Devil fires also grew by a combined 2,000 acres yesterday, and now together span more than 162,000 acres with roughly 25 percent containment along the California-Oregon border.

The fires, which started Sept. 8, with the causes still under investigation, have destroyed 440 structures, including nearly 200 homes.

“Fire personnel took advantage of the recent moderating weather conditions to focus on mopping up, improving existing lines, conducting strategic firing operations and constructing line around the perimeter of the fire,” a U.S. Forest Service update states. “Critical fire weather conditions are expected to develop over the weekend and interior fire activity is expected to increase. Creeping and smoldering activity will likely transition to more visible flames and fire behavior.”

Fire crews remain focused on reducing the fires’ threat to nearby communities by strengthening control lines around the fires’ perimeter. The zone north of Highway 199 remains the most active, though mop up activities continue around Happy Camp on the fire’s south end, with crews continuing to construct fire lines north of Thompson Creek.

As noted, the weather is expected to begin to change today, which poses a concern.

“The relative humidity will begin to gradually drop today then drop more drastically Sunday and remain low into Monday,” the update states. “A hot and dry weather pattern is expected for Tuesday through Thursday.”

Read the full update here.

The August Complex

The biggest fire in California history continues to grow, charring more than 3,000 additional acres yesterday, and now stands at 870,200 acres and 43 percent containment.

A collection of fires started by lightning storms Aug. 17, the complex’s northwestern end threatens southeastern Humboldt County and necessitated the closure of State Route 36 this weekend to allow fire crews additional safe access as they try to prevent the fire’s spread north.

“Firefighters are doing everything they can to keep the fire south of State Route 36,” a fire update states. “Aircraft will assist the firefighters as they work to secure the northeast corner near Forest Glen. Strategic firing operations will continue to reduce unburned fuels between the highway and the fire. This will decrease the intensity of the fire as it approaches the road, and support firefighters in their efforts to hold the fire south of Route 36.”

As with the other regional fires, weather forecasts pose concern.

“A Red Flag Warning goes into effect Sunday morning for critical fire weather,” the update states. “A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures are forecast through Monday. Winds are predicted to come out of the north/northeast at 15 to 20 mph, gusting to 40 mph on exposed areas and ridge tops. Extreme fire behavior is possible where the predicted weather conditions align with terrain.”

Evacuation orders remain in effect for the Trinity County communities of Ruth, Ruth Lake, Forest Glen, Post Mountain, Trinity Pines and Three Forks, with warnings issued for Mad River, the Hettenshaw Valley, the north areas of Ruth Lake from Journey’s End to State Route 36, Zenia and Kettenpom.

Find the full update here.

Air Quality

Today was expected to start off with mostly good air quality in the Hoopa Valley, Willow Creek and throughout the region but that’s expected to change.

“Overnight smoke will be pushed south changing to southwest into tomorrow morning,” an air quality updates states. “… concentrations of smoke will creep higher with the change in wind direction. Smoke may travel to Eureka by tomorrow morning.”

For today, the communities of Orleans, Willow Creek and Eureka are all expected to have “good” air quality, with air quality shifting to “moderate” in Hoopa as the day progresses.

See the full update here.
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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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