Climate-change-fueled wildfires are burning throughout the West with 90 fires burning in California and 23 people dead (19 in California with 3,900 structures burned). In the state, more acres have burned this year than in any other fire season on record. In an unprecedented action, all 18 national forests in California are closed to the public.
It can’t get worse. Or can it? A series of overlapping crises — extreme heat, lightning storms, and a once-in-a-century pandemic — have strained emergency response teams even as monster flames blaze through forests and towns, leaving neighborhoods and even entire communities in ashes.
Quote of the week: “I quite literally have no patience for climate change deniers… You may not believe it intellectually but your own eyes, your own experiences, tell a different story, especially out here on the West Coast of the United States. (Gavin Newsom, California governor) FIRE SEASON 2020
Check out these alarming statistics: The current acreage burned in 2020 is 2.5 million acres in California alone, most of that since mid August. This is 20 times more than last year at this time, and there’s still 2.5 months left in fire season. California started keeping fire records in 1932. Of those 88 years, the 10 worst fires have occurred between 2000 and 2020. And six of the top 20 worst fires are from this year!
The August Complex fire burning in northern California became the largest fire in state history, covering 471,185 acres in the Mendocino National Forest. The fire continues to be largely uncontained, and the state’s third and fourth largest fires are burning too. As of Thursday, Sept. 10, the August Complex — 37 fires that merged — was 24 percent contained.
FRE SEASON 2020
Around the West: In Oregon, dozens of record-breaking blazes have destroyed hundreds of homes and, in some cases, entire towns. Authorities told 500,000 people, or 10 percent of the state’s population, to evacuate their homes.
In Washington, 600,000 acres have burned since Labor Day. In Colorado, a 100,000-acre fire burning during a heat wave was doused by a rare, early snowfall.
The national forests, where the biggest blazes are burning, have closed all units. The national parks remain open and accessible to the public with stringent fire restrictions in place.
Many potential visitors to the area are cancelling their vacation plans due to smoky conditions or because of confusion as to what’s open, what’s not, and where the fires are actually burning.
Below is a roundup of the nearest fires to Three Rivers and Sequoia National Park, which are not threatening the town or any of the main park visitor attractions with flame but are contributing to smoky conditions (as of Thursday morning, Sept. 10). FIRE SEASON 2020
Location: Northeast of Fresno, east and northeast of Oakhurst, south of Yosemite (Sierra National Forest; Madera and Fresno counties).
Start Date: Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, 6:30 p.m.
Cause: Under investigation (most likely human-caused)
Expected Full Containment: October 15, 2020
Structures Destroyed: 361 (60 single-family residences)
Structures Threatened: 14,074
Personnel: 1,336 total (24 hand crews; 39 water tenders; 23 helicopters; 142 engines; 60 dozers; air tankers are providing suppression as conditions allow).
Evacuations: Mandatory— Shaver Lake; Huntington Lake; Big Creek; Bass Lake Basin, including Wishon, Bass Lake Annex, and Manzanita; the town of North Fork and surrounding area. Warnings— Prather; areas south of Little Sandy / Lodge Rd., northeast of Tollhouse Rd., north of Millerton Rd. / Nicholas Rd.; and Oakhurst, O’Neals, Walker Grade, Chukchansi, Indian Lakes, and Coarsegold east of Highway 41. FIRE SEASON 2020
Closures: SR-168 at Tollhouse Road,;SR-168 at Cressman Road; Auberry Road at Powerhouse Road; SR-168 at Sierra High School; Road 426 at Road 223; Road 200 at Road 221; Road 274 at Roads 222 and 225; Skyranch at Buckskin; Cascadel Arch; Road 420 at Road 223,;White Chief Mountain Road at Sugar Pine; and Fish Camp. A fire advisory (not a closure) is in effect south of Chinquapin (including Wawona) near the south entrance of Yosemite National Park (Hwy. 41); Mariposa Grove is closed.
Location: 5 miles east of Camp Nelson (Golden Trout Wilderness in Sequoia and Inyo national forests; Tulare County); consists of the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire.
Start Date: August 19, 2020
Expected Full Containment: September 30, 2020
Structures Threatened: 838
Personnel: 794 (12 hand crews, 18 water tenders, 7 helicopters, 52 engines, 8 dozers).
Evacuations: Camp Nelson, Sequoia Crest, Alpine Village, Redwood Drive, Ponderosa, Cedar Slope, Pyles Boys Camp, Coy Flat, Mountain Aire, Pier Point. FIRE SEASON 2020
Location: Backcountry of Sequoia National Park, east of Franklin Pass.
Start Date: August 16, 2020
Personnel: 8 (being monitored by air)
Trail Closures: Forester Lake Trail junction northeast to the confluence of Lost Canyon and Big Arroyo, east to the confluence of Big Arroyo and Kern River, east to the park boundary south of Boreal Plateau, south along the park boundary to the Kern River, north along the park boundary to Shotgun Pass, and north to the Rattlesnake-Forester Lake Trail junction.
Location: Southeast of Cedar Grove, half-mile east of Avalanche Pass Trail, in the backcountry Kings Canyon National Park. FIRE SEASON 2020
Start Date: August 16, 2020
Closures: None; trails in this area remain open.
Return to the front page.