California recently experienced 12,000 lightning strikes, resulting in 560 new fires.
The Sequoia Complex (SQF Complex), is made up of the Castle and Shotgun fires. The fires were reported on August 24, 2020. Initial attack of these fires was a top priority for fire personnel.
Both fires are in the Sequoia National Forest. The majority of the Castle Fire is in the Sequoia National Forest, but it is also burning in the Inyo National Forest. A large portion of the Castle Fire is burning in the Golden Trout Wilderness Area. The several hundred acre Shotgun Fire is approximately five miles northwest of the Castle Fire. As of Monday, September 14, the Castle Fire has reached the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park. The Shotgun Fire is still approximately one mile south of the Sequoia National Park boundary.
Dry conditions, high temperatures and low relative humidity have combined to allow for active fire behavior. Forest fuel located within the fire area varies with elevation and some areas have limited fire history. These include stands of dense mixed conifer with heavy brush. The McNally burn scar (2002) and Schaefer burn scar (2017) contain a mixture of grass, brush and dead trees and are supporting fire spread. Terrain is steep and rugged with frequent falling rocks and other debris.
Hand crews, heavy equipment, engines and aircraft are all being used to attack the fire. Firefighters are aggressively fighting the fire and implementing point protection to protect critical values at risk.
The Tulare County Sheriff has issued evacuation orders and road closures are also in place. Firefighter and public safety are the number one priority as personnel continues to battle this blaze. On September 14, Northern Rockies Team 1 joined forces with CAL FIRE Team 6 in Unified Command. On September 15, Sequoia National Park also became an integral part of the Unified Command structure. Although the fire perimeter has been divided into a West Zone and an East Zone, personnel fighting the fires will come together as one team to share resources and implement strategies to protect life safety and values at risk.
On Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., CAL FIRE Team 6 took command of the West Zone of the Castle Fire.
Currently, the burning acreages are 113,498 acres for the Castle Fire and 822 acres for Shotgun fire, for a total of 114,320 acres. The complex is currently 12% contained.
The priority for the Castle fire is the continued firefighting effort around communities that are on the southwestern area of the fire. On Tuesday, the fire aligned itself to go towards Ponderosa from both northeast and northwest. Firefighting efforts continued through the night, providing structure protection. A burnout operation to create a black buffer from the progressing fire is currently being completed around the community of Ponderosa. Actions will be implemented to 190.
The fire also aligned with fuels south of 190 and will continue to impact Camp Nelson through today. Air resources continue to be used heavily in the area. On Tuesday alone, 100,000 gallons of retardant were used from the mobile retardant base at Camp Nelson. The CAL FIRE team worked on the northwest corner of the fire, near the Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest.
In Sequoia National Park, crews have completed structure protection work on the Kern Canyon Ranger station. On the east side of the fire, crews continue to construct direct fire line as the fire progresses towards Beach Meadows and will continue to work around the point of the fire finger.
The SQF Complex is the top priority fire in southern California. Nationally, over 31,000 personnel are engaged in the nation’s wildland firefighting efforts.
The Shotgun Fire continues to exhibit low intensity surface fire and is currently 822 acres.
Relative humidity levels will be extremely low which will result in fire behavior early Wednesday and through the night. An upper trough will approach the California coast on Wednesday, as this system approaches, the ridge winds will become more southwesterly through the day. Thursday’s weather will bring slightly cooler temperatures and a slight chance for a shower. Winds will become gusty out of the west-southwest on Friday.
Continued smoke will be in the area. For current air quality, visit: https://fire.airnow.gov/.
Evacuation Orders and Warnings for Tulare County may be found at https://www.facebook.com/countyoftulare.
Tulare County residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency notifications at alerttc.com.
The Red Cross has evacuation centers at Porterville Community College and the North Exeter Community Building. Also, call the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS or https://tinyurl.com/yafetgkj
All National Forests in California are currently closed as of September 9, 2020. Sequoia National Park has a full park closure, Kings Canyon National Park remains open at this time.
The Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield Office has issued a temporary emergency closure.
For current information on California Highways, visit https://dot.ca.gov/ . Other road closures may be in effect.
The use of drones over the fire is prohibited.
Priorities for personnel include the communities listed in the evacuation orders, Casa Vieja, Blackrock Ranger Station, Rogers Camp, Beach Meadows, Monache Meadows, structures along the Lloyd Meadows Road, Freeman Grove, the President George H.W. Bush Tree, Camp Whitsett, archeological values, Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog and Little Kern Golden Trout Critical Habitats, Pacific Fisher habitats, OSA, Beach, and Beck Meadows, trailheads and facilities.
The fire began 25 miles north of Kernville after lightning struck in the area on August 19. Currently, the fire has consumed 114,320 acres and has been 12% contained. The fire has cost $28.6 million dollars and 14 injuries have been sustained among personnel fighting the blaze. Over 3,100 civillians have been evacuated, and 1,638 structures remain threatened. 105 structures have been destroyed.
Resources and personnel fighting the fire includes 14 hand crews, 70 engines, 19 water-tenders, 11 dozers, 23 helicopters and over 1,000 personnel.