Castle Fire settles in for a long winter’s nap

Castle Fire settles in
A helicopter flyby of the Hockett Meadow Ranger Station, blanketed with the first snow of the season but unscathed after being under threat from the Castle Fire. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

With the rain and snow (depending on elevation) that was received November 8, 2020, the SQF Complex fire is not expected to have any more growth. There could be smoldering trees and logs that could flare up in the interior of the fire’s footprint, but for the most part, the fire won’t progress beyond its current perimeter. Castle Fire settles in

Currently, the months-long suppression and containment efforts are now shifting gears to perform work that will minimize potential flooding and debris flow in areas affected by fire as the season’s rainy season arrives. In addition, hose line, pumps, and other equipment is in the process of being airlifted out of the backcountry. The SQF Complex will soon be a distant, yet smoke-filled memory.

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Castle Fire settles in
A helicopter retrofitted with snow skids lands in Hockett Meadow to airlift out fire personnel and equipment after the first snow of the season suppressed any new growth of the Castle Fire. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The SQF Complex has the distinction of being the largest fire in Sequoia National Forest history. It is also the largest and most destructive in Tulare County history. Castle Fire settles in

In the nearly three months since the fires were ignited by lightning (Castle Fire + Shotgun Fire = SQF Complex), they grew to just over 171,000 acres in size; 80 percent containment was achieved. The lightning-caused fires were discovered August 19, 2020, and managed as one incident. The Castle Fire burned on portions of the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument (130,262 acres), Inyo National Forest (12,293 acres), Sequoia National Park (18,957 acres), Bureau of Land Management land (728 acres), State of California (4,039 acres), Tulare County and private lands (4,726 acres), and threatened the Tule River Indian Reservation.

In the northwest section of the fire in Sequoia National Park, the fire was being allowed to burn as long as it maintained an easterly direction. The easternmost section of the fire at the south end of Kern Canyon also was being diverted rather than contained. This is partly due to terrain but also in keeping with the park’s wilderness values of letting nature take its course while humans tread lightly on the land; this is as long as there is no threat to human safety or structures. Castle Fire settles in

Here are some statistics provided by California Interagency Incident Management Team 13, which is currently on its second tour of duty on the SQF Complex:

There were 26 miles of hand line created and 148 miles of dozer line.

Fixed wing aircraft flew 1,000 hours over the fire; 1,500 hours for helicopters.

Six million gallons of water were dropped on the fire; two million gallons of retardant.

Eight incident management teams rotated in and out.

 

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