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

Castle Fire: Receives new

SQF Complex Fire: The Castle Fire and the Shotgun Fire are now under unified management and were renamed this past week to SQF Complex. SQF identifies Sequoia National Forest. These lightning-caused, climate-fueled fires, both located in Tulare County, started after a series of strong thunderstorms moved through the area on August 19, 2020. Castle Fire: Receives new

Castle Fire: The Castle Fire portion of the blazes is burning on the Western Divide Ranger District, northeast of the mountain community of Ponderosa, has grown to more than 20,000 acres since first discovered at five acres on August 19. Currently, the fire is 0% contained with full containment expected to be more than two weeks away. The fire continues to move farther into the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Sequoia National Forest and is advancing northeast toward the Inyo National Forest. A full suppression to contain and confine operation is in place with firefighters working on the ground and supported by aircraft. A protection strategy has been put in place to stop the fire from advancing into the Freeman Grove of giant sequoias and the community of Ponderosa.

Castle Fire: Receives new
The Castle Fire looms large. (Sequoia National Forest photo)

Shotgun Fire: The Shotgun Fire, located where Pistol Creek and Shotgun Creek converge in the Little Kern Canyon on the east side of Farewell Gap in the Golden Trout Wilderness, has grown to approximately 250 acres with 0% containment. At this time the Shotgun Fire is being monitored by air and is burning in rough rocky terrain. Castle Fire: Receives new

Safety Threats: The cabins in the Trout Meadow area remain threatened. The community of Ponderosa and Cedar Slope was notified by the Tulare County Sheriffs office of an evacuation advisory. On Monday, Aug. 24, 12 hikers were evacuated from the fire zone after being spotted by a passing helicopter, with two more individuals at Little Kern Lake in the wilderness awaiting assistance. Fire may move toward the area, so efforts were underway this past week to evacuate those hikers. Little Kern Lake is still north of the fire; efforts are precautionary.

Smoke Impact: Smoke and widespread air quality impacts from the California climate-fueled wildfires remain at unhealthy levels in Three Rivers. Everyone is urged to be vigilant about wildfire prevention as hot and dry weather conditions remain in place for the foreseeable future. Visitors to Three Rivers, Sequoia National Park, Mineral King, and Sequoia National Forest will continue to experience smoke. The SQF Complex Fire is producing smoke that is infiltrating into the San Joaquin Valley through the mountainous regions of Tulare and Kern counties. Air pollution officials caution foothills and Valley residents to reduce exposure to the particulate matter (PM) emissions by remaining indoors in affected areas. Castle Fire: Receives new

Health Effects: PM pollution can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of PM exposure. Those with existing respiratory conditions, including COVID-19, young children, and the elderly, are especially susceptible to the health effects from this form of pollution. Anyone experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke should move indoors to a filtered, air-conditioned environment with windows closed. The common cloth and paper masks individuals are wearing due to COVID-19 concerns may not protect them from wildfire smoke. 

Golden Trout Wilderness Closure: Sequoia National Forest officials today issued a Forest Order to close a portion of the Golden Trout Wilderness to protect public safety during fire operations on the SQF Complex. The Golden Trout Wilderness will remain closed to the public through at least Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, or until rescinded.

The following are some of the roads and trails closed under the Forest Closure Order:

—All trails within the boundary of the Golden Trout Wilderness on the Sequoia National Forest (this includes the east side of Farewell Gap in the Mineral King area). Castle Fire: Receives new

—North Road (FS21S50) where it begins on Highway 190.

—Lloyd Meadow Road (FS22S82) beyond the intersection with the Last Chance Road.

—Sherman Pass Road (FS22S05) a few miles east of Johnsondale.

—All trails north of Sherman Pass Road, east of Lloyd Meadow Road, west of Black Rock Trailhead.

The closure order and map are available on the Sequoia National Forest website.

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