The Castle Fire shows no signs of relenting its hold on the communities and landscape that it is consuming.Thousands of acres of growth are being tallied daily; structures and entire developments are no more. As of Friday morning, September 18, 2020, the acreage is: 128,902 (an increase of 6,000+ acres in 24 hours).
For management purposes, the Castle Fire has been divided into a West and an East segment. Three Rivers is to the north and west of the fire in the West Segment. Mineral King is to the north and east. These are the two areas of habitation in the Kaweah watershed that are concerning (and affecting) folks on this side of the mountain.
Alpine Village, Sequoia Crest, and other small cabin communities have suffered catastrophic losses. The fight is on to protect Camp Nelson and Ponderosa. On the south side of the West segment of the fire, Tule Indian Reservation is in the fire’s path. On the west side, Springville is 8 miles away. Blue Ridge and its communications towers are to the west-northwest.
In the East segment, in the northernmost section, the fire is less than 2 miles from the historic Kern Canyon Ranger Station. The structure has been protected with aluminized cabin wrap to protect it from radiant heat and burning embers.
Three Rivers is in the crosshairs of the northernmost portion of the blaze. Cal Fire reported Thursday, Sept. 17, that it had been working mostly on creating fuel breaks, which include utilizing existing roadways and waterways, as well as using dozers to create wide swaths of land that is scraped down to dirt.
There is a lack of resources available to fight this fire. From air support to boots on the ground, there are demands for personnel and equipment statewide, including for the huge Creek Fire in Fresno County to the August Complex fire in Mendocino National Forest, which is now the largest fire in California’s recorded history by nearly double.
The Castle Fire has moved up and over Dennison Ridge so it is now in the South Fork drainage. Firefighters are going to let the fire makes its way to the South Fork river. As it changes vegetation zones from conifer forest to oak woodlands and grasslands, the fire should reduce in intensity and be easier to fight via back-burning and other suppression methods.
Roll out down the steep flanks of the Dennison Ridge could create a transfer of fire. Ember cast is also an issue, especially if the winds don’t cooperate. Firefighters will attempt to keep the fire south of South Fork Drive.
Here is the evacuation warning that Mineral King cabin residents received this week:
THIS AREA IS UNDER A VOLUNTARY EVACUATION ORDER EFFECTIVE 09/14/2020
THE TYPE 1 INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TEAM FOR THE SQF COMPLEX ANTICIPATES A MANDATORY EVACUATION FOR THIS AREA
YOU SHOULD PREPARE TO LEAVE AND IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO STAY APPRISED OF THE CURRENT SITUATION
WE WILL ATTEMPT TO NOTIFY YOU WHEN A MANDATORY EVACUATION OCCURS
HIKING OR ANY OTHER TYPES OF RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK IS PROHIBITED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
At this time, it is best for everyone except for residents to stay off the Mineral King Road to allow for fire equipment to be hauled in as needed. It is an extremely narrow roadway with blind corners. A semi-truck hauling a dozer should have the right-of-way and not have their progress impeded by oncoming passenger vehicles.
Here is paperwork that property owners who have suffered loss in the southern mountain areas of Tulare County are receiving:
“Sequoia Complex Structure Damage Assessment— We understand that you want information about your home and property. We ask you to be patient as the burn areas are unsafe and we want to be able to give you accurate damage assessment information.
Please enter your information, including your first and last name, your address, and your phone numbers so that when we have those structure assessments we can contact you.”
From Inciweb.gov‘s end-of-the-day report— On Thursday, Sept. 17, there were southwest winds, an increase in clouds, and slightly cooler temperatures. Mostly cloudy skies will prevail on Friday and the winds will become gusty out of the west-southwest, as the upper trough moves across the region. Relative humidity will be higher on Friday ranging from the upper teens to the upper 20s (the higher the humidity, the better!). Clear skies will return on Saturday with cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity.
Westside terrain and vegetation
Alsorom Inciweb.gov— … Dangerous rates of spread are being observed through dense old growth brush that is over 10 ft tall. The heavy dead and down fuels on the steep slopes is aiding in fire spread into the inaccessible drainages and terrain. Mid-range spotting is developing from dead standing beetle kill, and the abundance of fuels on the forest floor, with large cold ember cast material being found over 5 miles from the current fire perimeter. Dead standing beetle kill timber is creating single and group tree torching.