Castle Fire update: An active week of fire and smoke

A Tulare County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle crosses Oak Grove Bridge on the Mineral King Road. The Mineral King cabin communities were placed on voluntary evacuation by TCSO on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Keeping an eye on the Castle

The size of the Castle Fire portion of the complex is 122,835 acres (as of Thursday morning, Sept. 17). New fire growth in the preceding 24-hour period was more than 9,000 acres. From east to west, the fire is more than 25 miles across. Imagine a fire burning everything from Three Rivers to Visalia. In one day last weekend, it consumed eight miles of forest.

Wednesday was the fourth day of substantial fire growth. The fire has been burning for nearly a month; containment is at 12 percent.

South-southwest winds caused gusts within the fire perimeter and were stronger on the ridge tops and the north-south river drainages. Relative humidity has been poor this week, which means active fire around the clock; no rest for the weary. The western perimeter of the fire is experiencing the most fire growth. 

The Castle Fire on September 13, 2020. (Inciweb photo)

It is forecast that through Saturday, Sept. 19, the fire will be extremely active. During this time, it is expected that fire growth will expand significantly day and night. Air quality due to smoke is expected to deteriorate even more through Saturday.

On the south side of the Castle Fire, at least 150 structures have been destroyed with more than 3,000 still threatened. Crews are preparing for the fire’s likely movement toward Ponderosa, Tule Indian Reservation and, as stated above, into Sequoia National Park.

The active area of the Castle Fire that Three Rivers residents are closely watching is the northernmost portion on its west side that is now up and over Dennison Ridge, which is also the south boundary of Sequoia National Park. There are two sequoia groves in its path: Dillonwood to the east and Garfield to the north.

Evacuations: Three Rivers residents in the southernmost part of the community (upper South Fork Drive and Cherokee Oaks subdivision) have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office also issued a voluntary evacuation notice for the cabin communities in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. These include Cabin Cove, Silver City, and all of Mineral King. A voluntary evacuation means be packed and ready to leave if at the notice is elevated to “mandatory.”

The Castle Fire on September 14, 2020. (Inciweb photo)

The week in fire: A week ago, fire was miles away from the Dennison Ridge area. Then a hot spot began near Moses Mountain. Now that entire area is encompassed by the main part of the Castle Fire. But the main portion of the fire is still south of the North Fork of the Tule River. A fire did start on the north side of the river, and that’s the portion, not yet connected with the main fire but dangerous all the same, that is pushing north and by Wednesday evening, Sept. 16, had reached the crest of Dennison Ridge and enter the south boundary of Sequoia National Park.

To the immediate east of this area is the Dillonwood Grove of giant sequoias, the southernmost grove in Sequoia National Park. The Castle Fire has thrown a couple hot spots into this area. It is also making a push north toward Dennison Ridge. 

Currently, the fire is being fought on the ridgeline. A fuel break is being constructed and back burns will be conducted.

https://3riversnews.com/18453-2/

If the fire crests Dennison Ridge, it then begins its push down to the South Fork drainage. If it continued its northerly progress downslope, it would enter the Garfield Grove, which was the first grove of giant sequoias protected by being included in the original 1890 boundaries of Sequoia National Park. Beyond this grove of Big Trees is the South Fork river and, jumping that, it’s an onward progression up to Case Mountain and the Salt Creek area.

Decision-makers: As of this week, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 6, United States Forest Service Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 1, and the National Park Service joined in unified command for the SQF Complex. Here is the contact information for the WEST side of the Castle Fire (which is what is affecting Three Rivers):

Fire Information Line: 916-618-3195

To receive email updates: https://tinyurl.com/WestCastleFire

Website: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents

Facebook: @CALFIRETUU

Evacuation Info: www.alerttc.com

Cal Fire reminds the public to stay vigilant on current fire conditions. Adhere to road closures and any evacuation notices. Drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel. There will be smoke in the respective areas as firefighters continue firefighting operations. If at any time you feel unsafe, call 911.

The Castle Fire on September 16, 2020. (Inciweb photo)

24 thoughts on “Castle Fire update: An active week of fire and smoke

  • September 17, 2020 at 3:14 am
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    I’VE MET YOU MANY TIMES WALKING ALONG THE RIVER AND YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND RUN PAST ME. YOU ARE DOING INCREDIBLE REPORTING IN IMPOSSIBLE CIRCUMSTANCES. THANK YOU! PLEASE KEEP US WELL INFORMED.

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    • September 22, 2020 at 8:38 am
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      Yes they do Great work

      Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 6:44 am
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    Thank you Sarah for all this info! We are big fans of Three Rivers and plan a September camping trip for the last couple years, unfortunately this 19th reservation may need to be later or next year. Ya’ll be safe.
    Tim

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  • September 17, 2020 at 6:48 am
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    I understand that the #sqfcomplex was divided into two sections (East and West) for fire fighting and management purposes, but I feel like doing this has negatively impacted the information available to the public, and is frustrating and confusing. There was a video update last night on the U.S. Forest Service – Sierra National Forest page, but it was ONLY for the eastern part of the fire. Where can folks who are impacted by the Western part of the fire get that level of information? Couldn’t there be a unified place to get information? Hoping our local media might be able to help raise this issue. I deeply appreciate everything the multiple agencies are doing to keep everyone safe.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 7:46 am
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    Very informative. Thank you. A map designating the mountains mentioned would also be helpful.

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  • September 17, 2020 at 7:59 am
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    Thank you for your thorough coverage it reall helps those of us away in evacuation.

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  • September 17, 2020 at 8:13 am
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    Thanks Elliotts for your great coverage. Our community of Sweet Home, Oregon has also seen horrendous fires all around us for the past week. We were just taken off the evacuation status. Today, I can actually breathe again! I pray that Three Rivers will soon follow the same path. Stay safe!!!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 8:27 am
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    Thank you!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 8:34 am
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    Thanks, Sarah and John! your information is invaluable to all of us here in the canyons. you are greatly appreciated!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 8:35 am
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    Thank you for the thorough coverage. Be safe.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 8:40 am
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    Thank You Sarah and John for the detailed information!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 9:46 am
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    Thanks John & Sarah! As usual, you do a great job!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 10:42 am
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    Here is a map showing fire progression from Aug 22 to yesterday (Sept 16) . You should be able to click a second time and it will show a closeup view. The colors start at blue (beginning of fire) progress thru green yellow orange and red (see the map key) The dark red shows the fire progress yesterday (8500 acres) and as you can see in the upper left, it has entered the Park and is now about 3 miles from the South Fork Campground.
    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/photos/CASQF/2020-08-21-1504-Castle-Fire/picts/2020_09_17-09.38.07.329-CDT.jpeg

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 10:50 am
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    Thank you Sarah for giving us much needed information that we cannot find elsewhere!
    Caroline & George Loeb

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 11:13 am
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    The best way to graphically view the extent of the fire is to go to the Cal Fire incident web page on a computer, as my phone doesn’t seem to want to load the map page very well. Then use the zoom function to get a close up view as to where exactly the fire is, as the mapping is updated regularly as indicated on the map. This seems at the moment the best available snapshot of the fires activity. However, there seems to be little information regarding Cal Fire & Tulare Cty Fire’s specific activity in fighting the fire, & when there is a report it is usually several hours old by the time it’s issued.

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  • September 17, 2020 at 11:38 am
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    Thanks John and Sarah for your the current info on the fire situation re Three Rivers, especially for out of town absently home owners.

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  • September 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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    Great coverage! Thanking the firefighters for the huge effort. I hope this monster is brought under control quickly. Climate change is everything they said it would be and more!! Gerry

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  • September 17, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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    You guys are awesome for keeping everyone up to date…. Such a scary time, I pray for Three Rivers many times a day. Between the Creek Fire and the Complex Fire, most if not all my “runaway places to recharge the soul” have burned…. Praying it does not make it to Three Rivers. God Bless, and Thanks for keeping all informed.

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 2:44 pm
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    Thank you again especially for the DAILY updates!!!

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  • September 18, 2020 at 9:35 am
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    Thank you for your coverage of the fire . We are absentee home owners on the south fork Drive and appreciate any information on this area we can obtain.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2020 at 11:19 am
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    Excellent coverage with informative links to reliable sources. We are fortunate to have this level of expertise to help us get factual and timely updates

    Reply

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