Thursday, August 12, 2021

Fire Updates: Red Flag Warnings and Thunderstorms Forecast

Posted By on Thu, Aug 12, 2021 at 12:17 PM

click to enlarge The Monument Fire burns a hilltop south of the Trinity River near Big Bar. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • The Monument Fire burns a hilltop south of the Trinity River near Big Bar.
A handful of fires burning east of Humboldt continue to grow with minimal containment, bringing air quality and travel impacts as far west as the coast, with State Route 299 still closed in Trinity County and no timetable for reopening. Overall hot, dry conditions and wind gusts are expected to continue to complicate fire suppression efforts, while forecast thunderstorms bring the threat of additional blazes. While air quality has improved somewhat on the coast, it has worsened to the east, with periods of very unhealthy conditions expected in Hoopa, Willow Creek, Orleans and Weitchpec.

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

The Fires

The Monument Fire,
67,190 acres, 3 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 grew to 67,190 acres as of this morning, an increase of about 5,000 acres from yesterday, with evacuation orders in effect for Junction City, Red Hill, Canyon Creek, Coopers Bar, Big Bar, Del Loma, Big Flat, Helena, Cedar Flat, and Burnt Ranch. For information on evacuation sites and animal shelters visit the Trinity County Sheriff's Office Facebook page here. "Last night, crews battled active fire throughout the night," a morning update reads. "On the west side, crews completed a firing operation from the dozer line down to State Route 299, removing fuels from the highway up the fire's edge. This will help prevent future spot fires near Burnt Ranch." Crews struggled to contain spot fires on the blaze's southern flank, which were fueled by winds of up to 20 mph. "With storm cells expected over the fire areas today, extreme fire conditions exist as outflow winds can push the fire in any direction," the update states. "Fuels are primed, available and vulnerable to any new ignitions. ... A local Red Flag Warning has been issued for gusty winds and isolated dry lightning."  For more information, read about incident commanders' briefing yesterday with Congressmember Jared Huffman here, check the incident website here here and a map of the fire's footprint here.


The McFarland Fire, 37,779 acres, 51 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. Crews made significant progress on containment yesterday, and will continue those efforts along State Route 36 today. "Current fuel conditions are critical and may lead to rapid growth," a morning update advises, adding that winds are supposed to be light in the morning but will pick up, with gusts of up to 15 mph expected in the afternoon along with a chance of thunderstorms and dry lightning. State Route 36 is open without restrictions.
Evacuation warnings are in place for the community of Wildwood, the Post Mountain/Trinity Pines community, the Platina community and parts of western Shasta County. The estimated containment date is Aug. 21. Find the latest information here.

River Complex 2021, 32,649 acres, 10 percent contained
Located in the Salmon/Scott River Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest, the complex consists of multiple lightning fires sparked in dry timber and brush on July 30. The full complex, which stretches more than 32,500 acres, includes 22 fires, six of which have been fully contained. Another fire was added to the complex on Aug. 7. "As winds increase and fire behavior becomes more intense, firefighters work to maintain the gains made in the past two weeks," a morning update reads. "Structure defense in the communities of Cecilville and Summerville continues in preparation for the change in the weather." A local Red Flag Warning remains in effect today, with possible thunderstorms and gusty outflow winds of up to 40 mph. Evacuation orders are in effect for Cecilville, Summerville and Petersburg, with warnings in place for Sawyers Bar, Coffee Creek past Sugar Pine Campground in Trinity County. The estimated date of containment is Oct. 1. Find more information here.

The McCash Fire:
1,769 acres, 1 percent containment
Sparked by lightning on July 31, the McCash Fire is burning near Somes Bar in the Marble Mountain Wilderness 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. "A heat advisory, smoke inversion, along with a Red Flag Warning today will continue to be a challenge for firefighters working in steep, rocky and rugged terrain," a morning update reads. "Hazards for firefighters include the road conditions, high heat, snags and steep, rugged terrain." The current estimated containment date is Sept. 29. Find more information here.

Travel

State Route 299:  Closed from 1.7 miles east of Hawkins Bar to Sky Ranch Road in Junction City. There is currently no estimated time for when the roadway will be reopened and motorists are advised to use an alternate route.

State Route 36: Open without restrictions through Humboldt County, though it is closed from 0.9 miles east of the junction with State Route 172 in Tehama County to the junction with State Route 44 in Lassen County 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 "hazardous" conditions — in areas of Trinity County, including Weaverville and Lewiston, with "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" conditions for Trinity Center, Burnt Ranch, Junction City, Hayfork, Douglas City and Platina, according to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District.

In Humboldt County, Willow Creek, Hoopa, Orleans and Weitchpec are also expected to be in the "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" zone.

For other areas in Humboldt County, air quality is generally for forecast to be "good," to "moderate" smoke with periods of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" possible in Kneeland. For the latest air quality information, click here.

Here's the district's full rundown:
Humboldt County:
 Willow Creek – Unhealthy with periods of Very Unhealthy in afternoon, some overnight clearing possible
 Hoopa – Unhealthy with periods of Very Unhealthy in afternoon, some overnight clearing possible
 Orleans – Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy conditions
 Weitchpec – Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy conditions
 Eureka (including Scotia to Trinidad) – Good conditions, smoke moving to the east today
 Klamath – Good with Moderate periods
 Garberville, Redway – Good to Moderate 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

For the latest air quality information, click here and 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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