WEATHER WATCH: Beautiful California has been under siege as deadly and destructive wildfires broke out last week in the north and south parts of the state. In Three Rivers, we've been spared the flames, but the smoke settled in and hasn't relented day or night. To the immediate south, Sequoia National Park's Eden Fire and three fires on Sequoia National Forest-administered lands, all lightning-caused, have also contributed to the smoky conditions. Rain is a possibility for next week.
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Smoke from several wildfires have prompted health cautions this week from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Smoke from the deadly, destructive Camp Fire burning in Butte County and several lightning-caused fires in Tulare County settled in over Three Rivers this week and has refused to budge.
Although no fires are directly threatening Three Rivers, the declining air quality has prompted local air officials to issue a health caution for smoke impacts throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This health caution will remain in place and smoke impacts are likely until the fires are extinguished.
To date, 56 people have died in the Camp Fire with dozens still unaccounted for. The fire also razed the town of Paradise, a community of 26,000 people. The fire has seared its way into the record books as the deadliest and most destructive in California’s history. In addition to the casualties, the blaze has destroyed 8,650 homes and 106 multi-family residence; the total structures destroyed is 10,321.
From the National Park Service— The Eden Fire in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park continues to grow and is now 343 acres as mapped this week via the parks’ helicopter. The fire has slowed its progress in the Eden Creek drainage on the western edge of the fire, however, fire has established itself on the east side of the eastern branch of Eden Creek drainage. One spot fire was observed on the east flank approximately 200 feet off the main fire and burning actively.
Continued positive fire behavior is occurring with consumption of brush and downed logs. Numerous snags are present in the area from tree mortality and the lack of modern fire history.
The parks will continue to monitor the fire via helicopter and will actively track any new growth downhill toward the Kaweah’s East Fork drainage.
Smoke is visible from the western side of Sequoia National Park. Most of the smoke is being attributed to fires burning in Sequoia National Forest, but the Eden Fire is also a contributor of smoke.
“The parks take air quality concerns seriously,” said Kelly Singer, fire management officer for Sequoia National Park. “However, as this fire burns in designated wilderness, taking valuable firefighting resources away from the larger, more dangerous fires in California to suppress this ecologically beneficial fire would be a mistake.”
All areas of Sequoia National Park remain open as previously scheduled. The Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, which is closed for the winter, is not threatened by this fire.
From the U.S. Forest Service— Both the Alder and Mountaineer Wildfires, located on the Western Divide Ranger District of Giant Sequoia National Monument, are burning in dense timber stands with extensive tree mortality and heavy fuel loading on the ground. In many places, aerial
ignition from a helicopter is used due to safety concerns for putting firefighters out on the ground.
Aerial firing operations are often used to moderate fire behavior by selectively reducing pockets of heavy fuel on the ground ahead of the fire. A confine-and-contain strategy is being used to suppress both wildfires.
Location: Five miles north of Camp Nelson
Acres Burned: 2,903 acres
Fire Discovered: October 4
Containment: 55% contained
Resources: 51 total personnel: 1 crew, 2 engines, 1 helicopter
Location: North of Summit Trailhead
Acres Burned: 1,152 acres
Fire Discovered: October 13
Resources: 48 total personnel: 1 crew, 2 helicopters, 1 type 3 Engine
In addition to the Alder and Mountaineer fires, the Forest Service is also keeping watch on the Moses Wildfire, a 1.3-acre, lightning-caused fire discovered October 17 about a mile south of Moses Mountain. This week, this fire showed minimal activity and had little smoke output as it smolders in a secluded stand of timber surrounded by rocks.