Friday, August 6, 2021

Fire Updates: Highways Remain Closed, Air Quality Improved

Posted By on Fri, Aug 6, 2021 at 9:52 AM

click to enlarge A Sikorsky helicopter refills its tank at a dip point whole working the McFarland Fire. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A Sikorsky helicopter refills its tank at a dip point whole working the McFarland Fire.
A handful of fires east of Humboldt continued to grow overnight with minimal containment, bringing air quality and travel impacts as far west as the coast, with state routes 299 and 36 still closed with no timetable for reopening. Overall hot, dry conditions are expected to complicate fire suppression efforts today and through the weekend.

Here's a brief look at each and what you need to know.

The Fires

The Monument Fire, 36,015 acres, 0 percent contained
Located a half mile west of Big Bar along State Route 299 east of Willow Creek, the Monument Fire was sparked by lightning July 30 and spread from 24,000 acres to 36,015 last night as it continues to threaten the towns of Del Loma, Big Flat and Burnt Ranch. "Last night, crews focused their efforts on providing structure protection around the communities affected as the fire actively burned through the night," this morning's report states. "Today, the focus will continue to be on structure protection as resources are working to evaluate options for primary, alternate and contingency lines around the perimeter fire." A significant rockslide blocking access along State Route 299 continues to hamper efforts. Evacuation orders are in effect for Del Loma, Big Bar, Big Flat and Cedar Flat, with warnings in place for Helena, Junction City, Coopers Bar, Red Hill and Canyon Creek. Get more information here and a map of the fire's footprint here.

The McFarland Fire, 26,598 acres, 7 percent contained

Sparked by lightning July 29 on McFarland Ridge south of State Route 36, the fire is burning in timberlands with fuels with historically low moisture levels in an area that hasn't burned in more than 50 years. "Overall fire behavior was moderate during (yesterday's) burn period," an update this morning reads. "Forecasted stronger winds are just starting to impact the fire area and could increase the rate of spread. Spotting continues to be a major issue for the incident." An evacuation order has been issued for the community of Wildwood, with warnings in place for the Post Mountain/Trinity Pines Community and parts of western Shasta County. Find the latest information here.

River Complex 2021, 16,773 acres, 1 percent contained

Located in the Salmon/Scott River Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest, the complex consists of multiple lightning fires spared in dry timber and brush July 30. The full complex stretches 16,773 acres and includes 22 fires, six of which have been fully contained. An evacuation order remains in effect for Cecilville, with warnings in place for Godfried, Blue Ridge, Black Bear, Uncle Sam Mine, Eddy Gulch Road, Forks of Salmon and Sawyers Bar. There is currently no estimated date of containment. Find more information here and a map of the fire's footprint here.

The McCash Fire: 951 acres, 1 percent containment

Sparked by lightning July 31, the McCash fire is burning near Somes Bar in Siskiyou County  in an area of timber growth with an understory of tall grass and brush. It threatens significant cultural sites for the Karuk Tribe, as well as some structures on private lands. Crews are working to suppress and contain the fire, but its location in a remote area on steep, rugged terrain poses challenges. "Dry weather, warmer temps along with lighter winds are expected Friday through the weekend," an update states. The current estimated containment date is Sept. 29. Find more information here.


State Route 299: Closed from Burnt Ranch to 9 miles east of Big Bar due to wildfire. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route.

State Route 36: Closed from the junction of State Route 3 to 4.8 miles west of Platina at White Rock Road due to wildfire. Motorists are advised to use an alternate route.

For the most up to date road information, visit CalTrans' road information site here.

Air Quality

Wildfire smoke has triggered an air quality advisory — with periods of "unhealthy" and "hazardous" conditions — in areas of Trinity County, including Weaverville, Trinity Center, Lewiston, Burnt Ranch, Junction City, Hayfork, Douglas City and Platina, according to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District. The good news for much of Humboldt County, according to an update today, is that the smoke near the fires "has not vented out" to impact nearby areas, though "more terrain driven winds are expected," which may lead to smoke impacts for areas west of the fires.

Air quality is forecast to be "good" along coastal areas from Eureka to Trinidad today, as well as in Garberville and Redway. Other inland areas, including Hoopa and Orleans, are expected to be "good" with periods of "moderate" possible. Willow Creek may see periods that are "unhealthy for sensitive groups." For the latest air quality information, click here.

Here's the district's full rundown:
Humboldt County:
 • Eureka (including Scotia to Trinidad) – Good conditions
• Willow Creek – Good to Moderate with periods of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (USG)
• Hoopa – Good with periods of Moderate possible
• Orleans – Good with periods of Moderate possible
• Weitchpec – Good with periods of Moderate possible
• Garberville – Good air quality conditions
• Redway – Good air quality conditions

"Good" — air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no risk
"Moderate" — Sensitive individuals should limit prolonged or heavy exertion
"Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" — Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion
"Unhealthy" — Sensitive groups should avoid all prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion
"Very Unhealthy" — Everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion
"Hazardous" — Everyone should avoid any outdoor activity
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Thadeus Greenson

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

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