Castle Fire: Most active in remote upper South Fork canyon

Most active in remote
At the end of an active workday on Wednesday, September 30, the portable retardant base that set up Sunday on the Schrock Ranch (beginning of North Fork Drive) in Three Rivers packed up and left town. A CH-47 helicopter came and went at regular 20-minute intervals for several days as it refilled its tank with retardant at the base and delivered it to the drop site at the Castle Fire in the upper South Fork canyon. Most active in remote

CALFIRE opens mobile retardant base in Three Rivers

Acreage (10/02): 153,226 (+2,426 acres since 9/29)

Containment (10/02): 61% (+3% since 9/29)

Personnel: 976 (-1,011 since 9/29)

Crews working the Castle Fire portion of the SQF Complex are making steady containment progress. But there is one remote swath of the fire that is continuing its spread: the northwest portion, which is the part of the fire that caused evacuations of Three Rivers and Mineral King, as well as is pouring smoke into the Kaweah canyon. Most active in remote

According to Michael Theune, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and also lead information officer for California Interagency Incident Management Team 2 that as of this week is overseeing the SQF Complex, the Castle Fire is a “full suppression fire.” This means that although the fire is burning in a remote area in its northwest corner, it is in the process of being contained and extinguished. Most active in remote

As noted above, there has been a change in management of the fire. The Castle Fire is no longer divided into an east and west zone, and California Interagency Incident Management Team 2 is managing the entire fire. Most active in remote

Weather: Present and Future

The fire remains active on the north side of Dennison Ridge in the Kaweah River’s South Fork canyon. The fire has backed down to and spotted across the South Fork river to the Ladybug area and now has the potential to work its way upslope toward the Homers Nose region.

The reason for this movement is on Thursday, October 1, 2020, stronger-than-forecasted east winds affected the fire activity in the northwest section coupled with low humidity levels. The windy conditions assisted in accelerating the movement of the blaze, allowing embers to carry 300 to 400 feet to other flammable vegetation. Most active in remote

The smoke that has wafted in and out of the Kaweah canyon over the past couple days, at times thick enough to block the sun, is due to a high pressure system that is hovering over the region. While the majority of the smoke is from the Castle Fire, the Creek (Fresno, Madera counties) and the Glass Fire (Napa, Sonoma counties) are adding to the toxic soup of pollution. The wind direction as well as the lid of high pressure explains the high concentration of smoke and ash throughout the community on Thursday and Friday.

Air quality has ranged from “poor” to “extremely hazardous” in Three Rivers for many consecutive days. It is difficult for residents to open windows in their homes, let alone spend time outside.

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released some winter forecasts that don’t bode well when coupled with a record-breaking climate-change-fueled wildfire season. The agency announced that a La Nina climate pattern has developed and is likely to persist through the winter. For the months ahead, scientists say there is a 75% chance that La Nina will be in place from December 2020 through February 2021. For this area, La Nina typically means a dryer than normal precipitation season. Most active in remote

In addition, NOAA announced persistent drought conditions throughout the state. For Tulare County, the seasonal drought outlook is “drought development likely.”

Fire: Here, There, Everywhere

There is a new fire burning to the east of the Castle Fire’s northwest section, about 1.5 miles away, at South Fork Crossing. This is where the trail from Hockett Meadow crosses the headwaters of the South Fork and descends eight miles to South Fork Campground and the end of South Fork Drive.

In a conversation with Michael Theune yesterday (October 1), he stated he was waiting for a report to determine if this fire was caused by spotting from the Castle Fire or is a dormant fire that found enough fuel to roar to life. But nonetheless it is there and burning about two miles below Hockett Meadow. Most active in remote

Currently, there are 23 major fires burning in California and nearly 4 million acres have burned. That is about 4 percent of the state and more than double the previous record for the greatest acreage burned during a single year in the modern record (2018). The human toll has been devastating as fires have claimed 31 lives this year and destroyed 8,000 structures.

The Rattlesnake Fire, a lightning-caused fire that is being monitored but allowed to burn in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park, started at about 8,000 feet elevation. It has tumbled 1,300 feet down into the deep, narrow Kern Canyon, where it is burning slowly toward a recently constructed containment line to the south but more determinedly north along the High Sierra Trail. Most active in remote

According the Michael Theune, although the fire is burning on both sides of the Kern River, the two bridges that cross the major waterway in the line of fire are reportedly undamaged.

Sequoia National Forest Partially Reopens

The Sequoia National Forest (different from Sequoia National Park, which is open) is now partially open after nearly four weeks of emergency closures due to California wildfires and wildfire risk. An area closure is in effect for areas affected by the Sequoia (SQF) Complex, meaning all national forest managed lands, roads, trails, campgrounds, lakes, etc., within the closure order are not accessible to the public (unless by permission and other prearrangements). For instance: On October 2, residents were given the green light to return to Camp Nelson, Pierpoint, Ponderosa, Coy Flat, and Doyle in remote

The closure area is generally described as forest-managed lands  between and south of the Hume Lake Ranger District and north of the Tulare County line. All of the Western Divide Ranger District is closed. The northern portion of the Kern River Ranger District is closed. The closure area map is available here

County of Tulare Offers Comprehensive ‘Fire Recovery’ Website

Tulare County has established the SQF Complex Fire Recovery website where residents can find information on evacuations and road closures, housing and shelter, animal services, health and wellness, maps, and donations.

Visit to learn more about damage assessments, including links from various collaborators within the county. It’s a one-stop website that serves as a clearinghouse for all things SQF Complex-related.

There is also a SQF Complex Fire Hotline is available for individuals who have been impacted by the fire and need assistance. Support and services are available through the hotline by calling (559) 802-9790. Open seven days a week, community members may call Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (or after hours; leave a message).


2 thoughts on “Castle Fire: Most active in remote upper South Fork canyon

  • October 3, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Great synopsis Sarah…

    The burn is being corralled nicely and is close to having burnt up every part of the Garfield trail just past the South Fork crossing, save a small portion down low and up high, and has also lapped over onto the Ladybug trail and is giving a good cleaning out to the forest for the trees, with the area being in the sweet spot of tree die-off when the beetles were on tour during the drought.

    The old historic Hockett trail used to go through Ladybug a little over 2 miles up from the trailhead, and the bridge there went out in the winter of record for the past century= 1968-69, and was never replaced {the abutments are still there on both sides} and you can follow the old historic trail for about 1/2 mile up Garfield creek awhile, and then you run into poison oak hell combined with impenetrable bush, yikes!

    But that was then and this is now, it all burned. Exploration beckons.

    There was quite a patch of Himalayan blackberries just beyond what we call ‘Coathanger Falls’ and the largest lowest altitude Giant Sequoia we’ve named ‘Low Rider’ where the old trail goes, ate our share for a number of years, and then NPS wisely eradicated it.


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