It’s a long road ahead for us.
(Teresa Benson, SNF supervisor, during an online public meeting on Sunday, September 20, for the Castle Fire) A report on the landscape
SQF Complex (consists of Castle Fire and the smaller Shotgun Fire)
Location: 12 air miles east of the town center of Three Rivers; 10 air miles west of Mineral King (Golden Trout Wilderness in Sequoia and Inyo national forests; Tulare County); consists of the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire.
Acreage: 144,826 (as of Wednesday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m.)
Containment of Castle Fire: 35% (mostly on the easternmost side of the Castle Fire; however, containment has been achieved this week on the west side for the first time – (1) In the vicinity of SCICON; and (2) Along the Grouse Valley Fire Control Road, 6 miles up South Fork Drive in Three Rivers).
Expected Full Containment: End of October 2020 or when the rains come
Structures Threatened: 3,143
Structures Destroyed: 148 (all in the cabin communities off Highway 190 east of Springville)
Personnel (and +/- difference since last report): 1,508 total (+86) | 25 hand crews (same), 35 water tenders (-1), 9 helicopters (same), 103 engines (+14), 35 dozers (+1).
Where to Watch: Continue to stay focused on the NORTHWEST portion of the Castle Fire, which is what poses a threat to Three Rivers and its surrounding mountains. This is in the area of Dennison Ridge, which is currently the most active part of the Castle Fire. A report on the landscape
To the WEST is the Grouse Valley Fire Control Road and its recently burned-out acreage that is intended to stop any advancement to the residences and ranches in the South Fork canyon (currently, the fire is 5.5 miles from the intersection of South Fork Drive and Grouse Valley Road).
If the fire continues NORTH and crosses the South Fork river, then the fight is on to keep it away from Cinnamon Gap (7.75 miles), from continuing to Case Mountain (and its associated giant sequoia groves), and out of the Salt Creek canyon. The Homers Nose/Cahoon Mountain area could also provide a path for the fire’s northward progression.
If the fire makes a run to the NORTHEAST, firefighters will be on alert in the Mineral King area to protect the structures, many of which are historic. It is unlikely the fire will advance to the cabin communities; it would have to cross the Hockett plateau, make its way through the footprints of the Eden (2018) and Horse (2009) fires in the Hockett Meadow area, and traverse several years of prescribed burn blocks in Mineral King’s East Fork canyon (as recent as 2016).
Mandatory Evacuations (no change):
KAWEAH RIVER CANYON— South Fork Drive beginning at the 43000 block (2 miles from Highway 198) and higher; Mineral King area cabin communities (Atwell Mill, Cabin Cove, Silver City, West Mineral King, East Mineral King).
TULE RIVER CANYON— Camp Nelson, Sequoia Crest, Alpine Village, Redwood Drive, Ponderosa, Cedar Slope, Pyles Boys Camp, Coy Flat, Mountain Aire, Pier Point.
Evacuation Warnings (no change):
THREE RIVERS— All of Three Rivers except for the mandatory portion above.
TULE RIVER CANYON— Springville area.
Three Rivers Area Closures: South Fork Drive at Conley Creek Bridge (2 miles from Highway 198). All of Sequoia National Park, including Generals Highway from Sequoia entrance station to the Woodward Gate (near Montecito-Sequoia Lodge). Mineral King Road at Oak Grove Bridge. Several businesses have closed temporarily due to smoky conditions and the park closure.
Weather: The beginning of next week (Sunday-Friday, Sept. 27-October 2) will experience a return to a run of hot weather with temperatures at or above 100 degrees F. for several days. This will lower fuel moisture levels and create more volatile fire conditions. A report on the landscape
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW↓
Additional Fire News
—The Castle Fire, as it burns through Devils Canyon and perhaps Bennett Creek area and Coffeepot Canyon, could wipe out some illicit weed farms that have set up annual operations in these remote areas. Even if the fire doesn’t destroy the entire 2020 harvests, it will destroy infrastructure and some overstory that provides cover for these ecologically destructive crops.
—The northwest portion of the Castle Fire should soon be stopped from westward progress down South Fork canyon by the burn that was ignited by CALFIRE last weekend (Sept. 19-20) along the Grouse Valley Fire Control Road. That section is factored into the 35% containment.
—The northwest portion of the Castle Fire is currently burning in two sequoia groves in Sequoia National Park: Dillonwood Grove and Garfield Grove. It has possibly entered, or will enter, some other more remote groves: Devils Canyon, Forgotten, and Clough Cave groves. A high-intensity wildfire in these groves that are untreated by prescribed burns could be lethal to these ancient trees. If a grove has been treated with prescribed burns to reduce fuel buildup and restore fire resilience, fire could be healthy for the trees. But these groves are not fire-adapted; the Castle Fire will likely burn too hot and giant sequoias will be the casualty. See an additional report on giant sequoias below.
—Air quality in the Kaweah canyon remains in the HAZARDOUS range. Take health precautions as necessary. The smoke is not forecast to dissipate for at least another week.
—Other FIRE NEWS of note includes – A report on the landscape
(1) The northeast portion of the Castle Fire in Kern Canyon is less than 1 mile from the historic Kern Canyon Ranger Station at the south boundary of Sequoia National Park. Just in the nick of time, the fire veered west and is burning up the Coyote Peaks ridge. The ranger station is heat-wrapped for protection.
(2) The Rattlesnake Fire, a lightning-caused fire in the lower canyon east of Franklin Pass has descended into the Kern Canyon trench, is now 2,475 acres, traveling north, and is less than 1 mile from Kern Hot Spring as it burns along the southernmost portion of the High Sierra Trail. This fire is being managed as a resource burn and monitored by National Park Service personnel who are also keeping an on the Kern Canyon Ranger Station. Currently, the only damage this fire has caused to property is a RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Station) in Rattlesnake Canyon.
(3) The Shotgun Fire (Mineral King area) and Moraine Fire (Kings Canyon National Park are also being monitored by Sequoia-Kings Canyon fire personnel. The Shotgun Fire is 834 acres and showing nominal growth. The Moraine Fire is 668 acres with 70% containment. Both are resource burns that will consume forest debris, create healthy forest ecosystems, and are not threatening lives or property.
Perri Spreiser supplied the information on the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks resource-managed fires. Perri is serving a local detail as parks fire information officer on loan from Natchez Trace Parkway (Tennessee. Mississippi).
—Sequoia National Forest, Inyo National Forest, and seven other California national forests will remain closed to the public until at least October 2, 2020. No information yet on when Sequoia National Park (or Yosemite) will reopen.
—GIANT SEQUOIA REPORT FROM THE SOUTH SIDE –
(1) The George H.W. Bush Tree in the Freeman Creek Grove, which had its buttress protected by an aluminized, heat-resistant wrap, has survived the Castle Fire. The tree was named for the then-president in 1992 when he gave a presidential proclamation from the grove ensuring all giant sequoia groves on National Forest lands would be forever preserved.
(2) It has also been reported that the Amos Alonzo Stagg Tree, number five on the list of largest giant sequoias, has survived the blaze. The Stagg Tree is in the Alder Creek Grove, a private grove purchased by the Save The Redwoods League in December 2019 for $15.65 million. The grove is located near Alpine Village and Sequoia Crest, two cabin communities decimated by the Castle Fire. A report on the landscape
Traversing the Landscape: The Castle Fire’s terrain
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