The Castle Fire is the largest fire in Tulare County history since such records have been kept and the most destructive ever in the county.
Location: 10 air miles east of the town center of Three Rivers; 6-7 air miles south of the Mineral King cabin communities; consists of the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire. This article focuses solely on the Castle Fire; the Shotgun Fire is 100 percent contained. Castle Fire: Attacked on
Expected Full Containment: November 1, 2020.
October 10— 166,318
October 11— 167,846
October 12— 167,388
October 13— 167,479
October 14— 167,625
For comparison, in the five-day period from September 25 to 29, the fire grew 6,023 acres from 144,777 to 150,800. In the five-day period from October 10 to 14, the fire grew 1,307 acres.
Containment of Castle Fire: Castle Fire: Attacked on
September 29— 58%
October 10— 65%
October 11— 65%
October 12— 70%
October 13— 70%
October 14— 70%
Personnel (and +/- difference since last report):
October 10— 741
October 11— 801
October 12— 822
October 13— 831
October 14— 851
Analysis | Observations | Updates
Air Attack— The threat of the Castle Fire to homes and other structures in the farthest reaches of South Fork Drive was greatly diminished this week as cooler weather allowed for smoke to clear and air support to take to the skies and fight the fire from above. A constant stream of Type 1 aircraft came and went from the Schrock Ranch mobile retardant base during the past weekend. On Saturday, October 11, multiple helicopters dropped a total of 95,000 gallons of retardant during fire suppression tactics in the northwest section of the fire. Additional aircraft used the designated dip sites along the South Fork river, Grouse Creek, Hockett and Evelyn lakes, and other waterways, all concentrating on protecting Three Rivers from the fire’s spread. Castle Fire: Attacked on
The operation was successful in protecting the homes at risk, the last few located along South Fork Drive just before the Sequoia National Park boundary. When all is said and done, Three Rivers will have lost not a single structure. THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS!
Evacuation Ongoing— Currently, the Three Rivers residents who have suffered the greatest impact from the Castle Fire are those who reside on Cinnamon Canyon Road and above along South Fork Drive. After a two-week evacuation in September, they were give the go-ahead to return home, only to be given evacuation orders once again on October 6. Now, eight days later, the uppermost South Fork residents remain in limbo.
However… The last notice of mandatory evacuation received from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and Tulare County Fire Department was from Cinnamon Canyon Road (including Cinnamon Canyon Road) to the end of South Fork Drive. A downgrade notice was never received. Yesterday (October 13), a press release was sent out by TCFD regarding areas to the south (Camp Nelson area) but also listed was the South Fork area, stating the evacuation order is from M319 to Devils Canyon. M319 is Grouse Valley Road. We attempted to verify the evacuation order boundaries with TCSO and TCFD but have not received a definitive answer. Hopefully, all South Fork residents are up to date on what the orders are, the areas included, and those who are allowed to return are back home. Any official news we receive will be distributed immediately via email and social media.
As of Wednesday, October 14, at 3 pm, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office has revised the South Fork Drive evacuation order. South Fork residents who live down-canyon from the Salt Creek Fire Control Road junction (between mile markers 8 and 9) have had the evacuation order lifted. At this time, only residents are allowed on South Fork Drive. Residents between the FCR and the Sequoia National Park boundary are still under evacuation orders.Castle Fire: Attacked on
A Fine Line— Due to the labor of fire crews on the ground and in the air over the past few weeks, Three Rivers is now well protected from the menace of the Castle Fire. With containment lines in the works, contingency lines completed, roadways cleared of brush, back burns, dozer paths, vegetation removal, hundreds of water and retardant drops, and more, westward movement by the fire is not going to be tolerated. South to north, from South Fork Drive to Mineral King Road (Sierra King subdivision, et al.), line has been constructed or otherwise fortified to stop the fire. And the work is continuing as the northwest section of the fire remains active and uncontained. THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS!
Slow Burn— The fire has grown just over a thousand acres since Friday, October 10. Cooler weather has allowed for the smoke to lift up and out, providing breathable air, blue sky, and even glimpses of the mountains for the first time in more than a month. The reduced temperatures also increased humidity levels, a firefighter’s best friend as moisture in the air and vegetation slows wildfire growth. The lack of wind, a trademark of the Kaweah canyon, has also aided in slowing the fire’s progression.Castle Fire: Attacked on
On the Wild Side— The fire is moving mostly north and east these days, and slowly. North from Homers Nose into the East Fork canyon. East from South Fork Crossing toward Hockett Meadow and its 82-year-old ranger station. Two Hot Shot crews have set up camp at Hockett Meadow, wrapped the cabin and outbuildings, and set up a sprinkler system. The ranger station has been through this drill before, most recently during the Horse Fire, which was started by lightning in July 2019 and burned 664 acres until it was extinguished by a late fall storm.
The Hockett Plateau is in a designated wilderness area in Sequoia National Park. As such, suppression of the fire is still the goal but the tactics change to be gentler on the land. The crews will utilize “Minimum Impact Management Techniques” to reduce evidence of fire suppression and other management activities, meaning use of motorized equipment is kept to a minimum, natural features are utilized when placing containment lines, and fire-retardant chemicals are kept well away from waterways and other sensitive areas. Castle Fire: Attacked on
Cabin Communities— There is a lot of activity on the Mineral King Road from top to bottom. A CONAFOR crew (from Mexico) is clearing the overgrowth along the the road below Oak Grove to create a contingency line. Defensible space assessments are ongoing in the cabin communities of Cabin Cove, Silver City, and Mineral King, as well as for Atwell Mill and its historical resources and giant sequoias. THANK YOU, FIREFIGHTERS!
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Collision Course— The Rattlesnake Fire, located north up the Kern Canyon from the northeasternmost section of the Castle Fire, is currently 6,786 acres in size. Recent activity has the fire burning south down the canyon. This is worthy of note since the Castle Fire is attempting to burn north up the canyon. Currently, the two fires are 3 miles apart. Crews are attempting to divert the Castle Fire west out of the Kern up the Coyote Creek drainage. This will keep it away from the Kern Canyon Ranger Station — the fire is less than 1,000 yards away — and from joining with the Rattlesnake Fire that, notably, is not a part of the SQF Complex. There are crews on the ground to protect the ranger station.Castle Fire: Attacked on
Weather Watch— A warming trend is on the way for the weekend. That could diminish air quality, causing episodes of smoke to return to Three Rivers, and will reduce humidity levels. It could also ground aircraft. There is no rain on the radar through October.Castle Fire: Attacked on
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