Saturday, August 28, 2021

Fire Updates: Crews Facing Hot, Dry Conditions Today as Smoke Impacts Extend to the Coast

Posted By on Sat, Aug 28, 2021 at 1:03 PM

click to enlarge A view of the River Complex in the distance. - INCIWEB
  • inciweb
  • A view of the River Complex in the distance.
Firefighters battling the handful of fires burning to Humboldt County's east are facing hot tempuratures and low humidity today as evacuation orders and warnings remain in effect for several nearby communities although evacuations due to the McFarland Fire have been lifted in Shasta and Tehama counties.

State Route 299 has reopened during the day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with pilot cars leading traffic in both directions from Burnt Ranch to Helena and State Route 36 is now open from the junction with State Route 3 to 1 mile west of Dry Creek

Air quality continues to be impacted by smoke, with an advisory in place for "unhealthy to hazardous" conditions in communities near the fire and Humboldt County seeing impacts ranging from "moderate" to "unhealthy." Conditions along the coast are forecast to worsen in the afternoon.

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

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

The Fires

The Monument Fire, 160,148 acres, 22 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 saw modest growth of about 5,000 acres since Tuesday. State Route 299 has reopened but only during the day and with pilot cars leading traffic in both directions from Burnt Ranch to Helena at designated times every three hours starting at 7 a.m. Pilot cars will leave east and west points at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The road will be closed after the last escorted group of the day until 7 a.m. for everyone, except local residents with proof of address and emergency traffic.

While thick smoke is expected to help slow the fire's growth, crews will be facing the hottest and driest conditions forecast for this week and shifting winds.

 “It may seem a lot like yesterday and the days before, but please keep your guards up today,” Operations Section Chief Karen Scholl warned firefighters during their morning meeting today. “The changing winds and the possibility of clear air late this afternoon, along with the critically dry fuels, can be a dangerous combination.”

Evacuation orders remain in effect for Barker Mountain, the NW portion of Hayfork Summit and North Hayfork Valley, north of Highway 3.

Areas on evacuation warnings now include Big Bar, Big Flat, Burnt Ranch, Douglas City, Junction 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.

Damage assessment teams have confirmed 50 structures have been destroyed in the blaze to date. Currently, 2,319 personnel, 35 hand crews, 171 engines, 18 helicopters, 56 dozers, 49 water tenders, 3 skidgines, 21 masticators and three excavators are allocated to the fire.

For more information, check the incident website here and a map of the fire's footprint here.

The McFarland Fire,
122,653 acres and is 93 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.

Firefighters continue to make progress on containing the fire, with "crews again worked primarily in Beegum Gorge and along Highway 36 mopping up and extinguishing any hot spots near containment lines and patrolled the rest of the fire," according to today's update

A damage assessment team has identified 24 residential structures and 22 other structures that have been destroyed and one residential structure damaged. Currently, 310 total personnel, including three hand crews; five engines; two helicopters; five dozers; eight water tenders and one masticator are allocated to the effort.

Evacuation in Shasta and Tehama Counties have been lifted and returning residents are asked to drive carefully as crews continue to work in the fire area. The Forest Closure Order for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest remains in place.
State Route 36  is now open from the junction with State Route 3 to 1 mile west of Dry Creek. Find the latest information here and view a map of the fire's footprint here.

River Complex 2021, 96,525 acres, 23 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. Containment of the fire grew significantly since Tuesday. The full complex stretches more than 96,000 acres and includes 22 fires, six of which have been fully contained.

"On Friday, clearer skies and breezy conditions increased fire activity across the Haypress and Summer fires," today's update states. "Crews on the Cronan fire continue to hold and secure the control lines. Crews increased containment on the Parker Spot fire that is burning southeast of the Haypress. Decreasing winds tonight should provide optimal conditions for the night shift and their firing operations."

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, Coffee Creek and Trinity Center. The estimated date of containment is Oct. 1. Find more information here.

The McCash Fire:
29,479 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 continued to grow overnight, reach nearly 30,000 acres.

"Warmer, drier weather and clearer skies contributed to increased fire activity yesterday, but also allowed for all three helicopters to support firefighters’ suppression efforts on the ground throughout the day," an update reads, saying crews worked overnight to contain spot fires detected east of Ti Bar and on the southwest corner of the fire near road 13N51Y. "

Tempuratures are forecast to peak in the 90s throughout much of the fire area today and tomorrow with relative humidity falling to 8-15 percent. Winds are expected to be terrain-driven with upper ridgelines seeing light, northerly winds.

Evacuation orders and warnings are in place for areas of Siskiyou County. Visit the county's website for up-to-date information here.

A total of 352 people are currently allocated to the fire suppression effort.

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: Reopened during the day with pilot cars leading traffic in both directions from Burnt Ranch to Helena at designated times every three hours starting at 7 a.m. and the last escort at 7 p.m. The road will be closed after the last escorted group of the day until 7 a.m. for everyone, except local residents with proof of address and emergency traffic.

State Route 36: Open from the junction with State Route 3 to 1 mile west of Dry Creek

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 "very unhealthy to hazardous" conditions — in areas of Trinity County, including Trinity Center/Coffee Creek, Weaverville, Junction City, Douglas City and Hayfork and "unhealthy to very unhealthy with periods of hazardous" in Platina and Lewiston, according to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District.

In Humboldt County, conditions are expected to "moderate" in Eureka (from Scotia to Trinidad) with possible periods of "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in the afternoon as well as Weitchpec, Garberville and Redway, with conditions in Hoopa and Willow Creek "unhealthy for sensitive groups" to "unhealthy."  Orleans is forcast to be overall "unhealthy" with improvements expected overnight.

For the latest air quality information, click here.

Here's the district's full rundown:
• Eureka (including Scotia to Trinidad) – Moderate, possible periods of USG in afternoon with smoke aloft
• Weitchpec – Moderate to USG
•Hoopa Valley – Overall USG, Unhealthy midday, then improving
• Willow Creek – Overall USG, Unhealthy midday, then improving
• Garberville, Redway – Overall Moderate with periods of USG, improving overnight

"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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About The Author

Kimberly Wear

Bio:
Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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