Monday, August 23, 2021

Fire Updates: McFarland Containment Advances as McCash Fire Grows

Posted By on Mon, Aug 23, 2021 at 12:13 PM

A handful of fires burning east of Humboldt continue to spread, although some containment efforts have made progress in the McFarland Fire and River Complex fire. State Route 299 is still closed in Trinity County with no timetable for reopening and State Route 36 is closed from the junction at State Route 3 to Bowman Road, located about 17 miles west of Red Bluff, 8 miles west of Mineral to the junction of State Route 32 and closed from 3 miles east of the junction of State Route 147 at County Road to the junction of State Route 44. Air quality will continue to be impacted by smoke with "moderate" and "unhealthy for sensitive groups" conditions in communities in the east. 

With fires raging across the region and resources already stretched very thin, the U.S. Forest Service last week temporarily closed 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, 150,011 acre
s, 20 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 7,000 acres over the weekend. "Widespread, persistent smoke will continue under terrain-driven winds. Temperatures will be slightly warmer and minimum humidity a little lower, with high temperatures in the upper 70s to near 90 across most of the fire," an update reads. "Today, crews will continue prepping the communities of Hawkins Bar and Trinity Village in the event the fire spots across the New River. The fire is slowly backing down Ironside Mountain east of the river and crews are monitoring the Bell Flat area for any spot fires that may pop up west of the river."

Evacuation orders remain in effect for Hayfork, Sky Ranch Road, Junction City, Red Hill, Canyon Creek, Coopers Bar, Big Bar, Del Loma, Bell Flat, Helena, Cedar Flat, Burnt Ranch and Barker Mountain. Evacuation warnings are in effect for Weaverville, Douglas City, areas south from Barker Mountain to Haystack, the north side of Hyampom Road from Hayfork to 9-mile bridge, Denny, Hawkins Bar and Trinity Village. 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, 118,090
 acres, 68 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 2,000 acres since Friday.

"Favorable conditions overnight allowed crews to successfully conduct careful burning operations down Noble Ridge from dozer line toward Beegum Creek. Firefighters used night-flying aircraft to help identify places of remaining heat, and only minimal fire behavior was observed around the rest of the fire," a morning update states. "Today, crews will prioritize completing containment lines around Beegum Gorge to further protect the structures there and in the community of Platina. They will strengthen lines on the southern edge of the fire near the Wilderness Boundary." The weather is forecast to have a light flow aloft that may push smoke to the east and allow for sunnier skies over the fire area. Winds are predicted to be light and terrain-driven.

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, 86,492 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 6,000 acres since Friday, now stretches 86,000 acres and includes 22 fires, six of which have been fully contained. "The fire crews had tremendous achievements overnight with the Cronan Fire. After working for over three weeks to contain the fire, the crews are currently completing what is expected to be the final section of the Cronan. This will allow fire managers to reallocate some of the resources, including two-hotshot crews, to provide much needed assistance to the Haypress and Summer fires," a morning update reads. "Fire crews are taking advantage of favorable weather conditions across the River Complex, including smoke inversion, lower temperatures, and higher humidity."

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:
19,707 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. "Fire growth continues to threaten communities along the State Route 96 corridor between Independence and Rogers Creek," a morning update reads. "Fire continues to grow on all sides, but the majority of the MCash Fire resources are engaged in structure protection activities in these areas. Night operations continue to take advantage of opportunities to slow fire spread west towards State Route 96.  Fire growth is expected to continue in the Marble Mountain Wilderness."

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 of State Route 3 to east of the Shasta-Tehama County Line at Vestal Road, closed from 8 miles west of Mineral to the junction of State Route 32 and closed from 3 miles east of the junction of State Route 147 at County Road to the junction of State Route 44. 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" and "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 "good" and "moderate" in Eureka (from Scotia to Trinidad) and Garberville, Redway with some periods of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in Orleans, Weitchpec and periods of "unhealthy to very unhealthy" in Hoopa and Willow Creek.

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
  • Orleans – Overall Moderate to USG, with possible Unhealthy periods in afternoon
  • Weitchpec – Mostly Moderate with possible Unhealthy periods in afternoon
  • Hoopa – Overall USG, with periods of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy midday then improving overnight
  • Willow Creek – Overall USG, with periods of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy midday then improving overnight
  • Garberville, Redway – Overall Moderate conditions; smoke may mix down as marine layer leaves
"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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Iridian Casarez

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Iridian Casarez is a staff writer at the North Coast Journal.

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