Friday, August 20, 2021

Fire Updates: New Evacuation Warnings, Forest Closures as Spread Continues

Posted By on Fri, Aug 20, 2021 at 1:32 PM

click to enlarge The River Complex Fire. - REID BARNEY/KLAMATH NATIONAL FOREST
  • Reid Barney/Klamath National Forest
  • The River Complex Fire.
A handful of fires burning east of Humboldt spread aggressively yesterday, pushed by winds and dry fuel loads, and continue to bring 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 and State Route 36 closed from the junction at State Route 3 to Bowman Road, located about 17 miles west of Red Bluff. The Monument Fire's spread to the northwest has prompted new evacuation warnings for communities just east of the Humboldt-Trinity county line.

With fires raging across the region and resources already stretched very thin, the U.S. Forest Service announced today it is temporarily closing nine National Forests, including Klamath, Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers.

"We do not take this decision lightly and understand how this impacts people who enjoy recreating on National Forests," said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien in a press release. "These temporary closures are necessary to ensure public and firefighter safety, as well as reduce the potential for new fire starts."

Here's a brief look at each of the first burning near Humboldt and what you need to know.

The Fires

The Monument Fire,
142,250 acres, 10 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 on July 30 and grew roughly 10,000 acres yesterday, prompting new evacuation warnings for the communities of Denny, Hawkins Bar and Trinity Village. "A wind shift is expected over the fire today with winds coming out of the nor west rather than the northeast," a morning update states. "The change in wind direction is expected to clear smoke out of the northwest side of  the fire. The clearer air will allow more sun to bake the fire, which will likely result in increased activity on the nor west portion of the fire that is most active. ... Today, crews will continue patrolling for spot fires, securing existing control lines and constructing indirect contingency lines."

Evacuation orders remain in effect for Sky Ranch Road, Junction City, Reed Hill, Canyon Creek, Coopers Bar, Big Bar, Del Loma, Big Flat, Helena, Cedar Flat, Burnt Ranch, Barker Mountain and other areas northwest of Hayfork Summit and Sunshine Meadows, Harris Road, Farmer Ranch Road and for residence from Ewing Road up through Brady Road in Hayfork. Evacuation warnings are in effect for Hawkins Bar, Denny, Trinity Village, Weaverville, Douglas City, areas south from Barker Mountain to Haystack proper and the north side of Hyampom Road from Hayfork property nine-mile bridge. For information on evacuation sites and animal shelters, visit the Trinity County Sheriff's Office Facebook page here.

For more information, check the incident website here and a map of the fire's footprint here.
The McFarland Fire, 115,996 acres, 52 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. It grew by about 5,000 acres yesterday.

"Winds picked up overnight, pushing the fire in Beegum Gorge toward State Route 36 in a few places," a morning update states. "Crews worked in that area to keep the fire south of the highway, but several spot fires were detected over the road. All spots were lined overnight but crews today will watch carefully to ensure that no heat remains." Crews today will also prioritize keeping the fire south of State Route 36. Light, terrain-drive winds are expected throughout today, with gusts likely to surface again this evening, "bringing with them the potential to push the fire to the southeast."

Evacuation orders are in effect for portions of Shasta and Tehama counties, but not Humboldt.  State Route 36 remains closed from State Route 3 to Bowman Road. Find the latest information here and view a map of the fire's footprint here.

River Complex 2021, 80,400 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 grew by more than 25,000 acres yesterday, now stretches 80,400 acres and includes 22 fires, six of which have been fully contained. "Fire crews are focusing in critical areas of the fire in anticipation of increased fire activity today," a morning update states. "Warm, dry and breezy northwest winds are expected across the fire area." Evacuation orders are in effect for Cecilville, Summerville, Petersburg and Coffee Creek Road past Sugar Pine Trailhead in Trinity County. A warning remains in place for Sawyers Bar. The estimated date of containment is Oct. 1. Find more information here.

The McCash Fire: 11,171 acres, 0 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. "Heavy fuels, continued drought conditions and warm weather continue to keep the McCash fire active," an update states. "When the wind, slope and dry heavy fuels align, this will lead to extreme fire behavior and much higher rates of spread." Fire crews are prioritizing protection of communities along State Route 96, prepping homes by setting up sprinklers and laying hose. An evacuation order has been issued for the Dillon Creek Campground following along State Route 96 to Ti Bar Road, Marble Mountain Ranch to include Camp Three Campground due to wildfire by Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office. An evacuation warning has been issued for the Butler Flat, Nordheimer Campground, and Portuguese Creek areas along Salmon River Road. (For the most up-to-date evacuation info, click here.)

The fire threatens significant cultural sites for the Karuk Tribe, as well as some structures on private lands. 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 2.7 miles east of 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: Closed from the junction with State Route 3 to 16.8 miles west of Red Bluff at Bowman Road. 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 to very unhealthy" conditions — in areas of Trinity County, including Weaverville, Junction City, Trinity Center/Coffee Creek, Hayfork, Platina and Burnt Ranch, according to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District.

In Humboldt County, conditions are expected to be mostly "good" on the coast, with smoke increasing overnight in the areas of Orleans and Weitchpec. Conditions could grow from "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy" overnight in Hoopa, Willow Creek, Garberville and Redway.

For the latest air quality information, click here.

Here's the district's full rundown:
Humboldt County:
• Eureka (including Scotia to Trinidad) – Good to Moderate conditions, USG to Unhealthy at higher elevations
• Orleans – Good to Moderate, smoke increasing overnight
• Weitchpec – Overall Moderate, possibly less smoke in the afternoon, increasing overnight
•Hoopa – Moderate in the morning, with periods of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy, possible improvement overnight
Willow Creek – Moderate in morning, with periods of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy, possible improvement overnight
Garberville, Redway – USG with periods of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy 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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