Another Forest Service fire fiasco: SQF Complex

Another Forest Service fire fiasco
An image from the InciWeb site, the online interagency incident information management system, which provides updates on fires and other incidents;. The graphic depicts where all the fires are burning in the U.S.

These extreme max temps combined with lows in the mid 70s to lower 80s will make Sunday one of the most hazardous in recent memory. (National Weather Service)

Here’s a roundup of the local fires
Although it looks as though a wildfire is in close enough proximity to pose a danger to Three Rivers and its environs, that is not the case. All fires are far enough away that no flame will be experienced during this hot, dry, hazardous time of year, but the residual smoke has settled into the Kaweah canyon and could possibly remain until the rainy season, which is months away.
As the weekend’s high pressure settles into the region, the smoke is lying like a blanket over the Kaweah canyon. On Thursday, Sept. 3, those weren’t snowflakes drifting down from the sky. It was ash. Air quality is unhealthy so try not to breathe for a couple more months.
During Labor Day weekend 2020, temperatures are forecast to come near or exceed the hottest ever recorded for these dates, with widespread highs up to 115 degrees (a temp of 109 is forecast for Three Rivers on Sunday, Sept. 6). “These extreme max temps combined with lows in the mid 70s to lower 80s will make Sunday one of the most hazardous in recent memory,” the National Weather Service reported.
As the climate crisis continues to intensify, these wildfires will only become worse. The region has experienced this unrelenting smoke many times in the past couple of decades, most of which is due to fires too big to extinguish on national forest lands: McNally Fire (2002; human-caused; 150,700 acres), Lion Fire (2011; lightning-caused; 20,700 acres), Rough Fire (2015; lightning-caused; 151,600 acres). Another Forest Service fire fiasco
SQF Complex Fire
The SQF Complex encompasses the Castle and Shotgun fires, both lightning-caused. In total, it has burned 46,328 acres as of Thursday, September 3, and grew 3,754 acres in the previous 24 hours. Approximately 6,000 acres of the Castle Fire is burning on the Inyo National Forest with the remainder on the Sequoia National Forest, which is where it started on August 19 northeast of Camp Nelson in Tulare County. The containment estimate remains at 1 percent. Mike Goicoechea, Incident Commander, Northern Rockies Type 1 Incident Management Team took command of the fire on September 3. Currently, 632 personnel are assigned; with the transition, additional resources are expected to arrive.
Castle Fire: The fire perimeter remains active, encompassing 45,296 acres. The northern flanks are encroaching on Osa Meadow and progressing towards Angora Mountain with wind-driven runs and group torching. Substantial heat remains on the east side in the Lloyd Meadows area. Crews are focused on firing operations from containment lines to the active fire perimeter on the southwest flank; firing operations are also planned for the Kern Creek area if conditions permit. Structure protection is underway in the Soda Flats area and near Jordan Hot Springs, as well as Ponderosa, Lloyd Meadows, Pyles Camp, Camp Whitsett, and other areas on the west side.
Shotgun Fire: Estimated at 402 acres, the Shotgun Fire is slowly burning within a rocky drainage with continued monitoring by aerial resources. Another Forest Service fire fiasco
Weather: Conditions remain stable with a strong high-pressure system continuing to build in the area. Hot temperatures and low relative humidity will persist in the area throughout the Labor Day holiday weekend. Daytime highs will be 70 to 78 degrees at upper elevations and 94 to 97 on the valley floor with relative humidity potentially dropping into the single digits. Winds are expected to remain light in the morning and increasing in the afternoon with potential gusts to 25 mph.
Evacuations and Closures:
An Evacuation Order is active for the following communities: Cedar Slope, Ponderosa, and Pyles Boys Camp.
An Evacuation Advisory is in place for the following communities: Camp Nelson, Rodgers Camp, Coy Flat, and Mountain Aire.
Many roads and campgrounds are closed in the vicinity of the fire. Be sure to check conditions if traveling in this directions. Another Forest Service fire fiasco

Moraine Fire

Another Forest Service fire fiasco
The Moraine Fire (National Park Service photo)

The Moraine Fire was discovered August 21 after substantial lightning occurred over the area. It is located in the backcountry along the joint boundary of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, east of Cedar Grove, and as of Thursday, September 3, had grown to 290 acres. The fire is creeping and smoldering with some group tree torching through large dead and down ground fuels and continuing to burn in areas with standing dead trees (of which there are millions throughout the parks). The park is using a confine and contain suppression strategy utilizing natural rock features, existing trails, and other natural barriers as containment lines. This limits exposure to firefighters and minimizes impacts in the wilderness. Another Forest Service fire fiasco
Smoke will be visible from high country vistas and in the local area of the fire. All trails in the area remain open.

Rattlesnake Fire

Another Forest Service fire fiasco
The Rattlesnake Fire (National Park Service photo)

The Rattlesnake Fire was discovered August 16 and was caused by lightning. As of Thursday, September 3, the fire was estimated to be at 156 acres. It is located in the Rattlesnake Creek drainage, east of Franklin Pass in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park. The fire is burning in an area of steep inaccessible terrain with sparse ground fuels with pockets of large dead and down trees. The Park Service is using a confine and contain suppression strategy utilizing natural rock features, existing trails, and other natural barriers as containment lines. This limits exposure to firefighters and minimizes impacts in the wilderness.
All trails in the area remain open. Backpackers are reminded to use caution and follow all posted trail signs.

Castle Fire: Receives new name, burns 20,000 acres in a week, creates unhealthy air


5 thoughts on “Another Forest Service fire fiasco: SQF Complex

  • September 4, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I read the article but failed to read any mention of how or why this lightning caused fire is “another Forest Service fire fiasco.” Did I miss something? Perhaps the title should have read that, despite the very high temps forecast for this weekend, there will be thousands of firefighters on the line, in the heat and smoke, working their tails off to try to contain the SQF Complex fires and other fires throughout California and the western United States.

    • September 4, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      I call it a “fiasco” because the USFS does not attack these blazes fast enough, which creates months of unlivable conditions, destroys landscapes, displaces and kills wildlife, accelerates greenhouse gas emissions, and pollutes waterways. Driven by climate change, wildfires pose a huge threat and demand careful forest management practices (and fire plays an important ecological role when managed properly). On August 21, a press release said the Castle Fire was 5 acres in size with six 20-person hand crews on site and a helicopter dropping water. On August 22, the fire was 400 acres. The next day it was 3,800 acres. Now, 10 days later, it is 52,000+ and growing 4,000-5,000 acres daily. This is reminiscent of the Rough Fire but is currently more dangerous since we are in the midst of a pandemic that attacks the lungs while having the prospect of inhaling particulate matter for the next two months or so. -Sarah

      • September 7, 2020 at 11:05 am

        Perhaps the Forest Service’s failure to attack fires fast enough is due to the lack of personnel and equipment. With many large fires burning in the Western US, resources are strained to the limit. Covid-19 has also virtually eliminated the availability of convict crews, which have been a large part of firefighting in years past. Combine this with the huge number of dead and down heavy fuels caused by drought and bark beetle infestations, above average temperature with below average humidity, and lack of sufficient funding, and you have a “perfect storm” lose=lose situation, not necessarily a “fiasco”.

  • September 4, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    It is important to remember that embers from fires can spread – sometimes they will fly several miles from the originating fire – and then ignite another spot fire. This process can be repeated from fire to fire, which is what happened in Paradise. So, although the fire itself is far enough away, we should all stay watchful . AND, always be prepared to leave on a moments notice. Pack a go back & have an animal evacuation plan. No one ever regretted evacuating early – if you feel you are in danger then leave. (yes we should get evacuation notices but they might come late or not happen at all so be prepared!)

  • September 4, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Google or research USFS annual budget for fighting Wild Land Fires. Very interesting article from the Washington Post on California’s catastrophic fires seasons. It will put things into prospective.


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