FIRE SEASON 2020: The unrelenting, destructive Castle Fire

The unrelenting
A view of the approaching Castle Fire from a recently masticated and bulldozed road that will serve as a firebreak.

Sequoia Complex Public Information Meeting 

The Sequoia Complex incident command teams will host a public information meeting on Sunday, September 20, 2020, at 4 p.m. The meeting will be broadcast via Facebook Live and will also be available for viewing at later times. Questions may be emailed in advance to The unrelenting

Viewers do not need a Facebook account to view the meeting. The livestream will appear at the top of the Sequoia National Forest Facebook page a few minutes before 4 p.m. 

California is a war zone as climate-change-fueled wildfires continue to rage throughout the state. Currently, there are 27 fires burning with 18,000 firefighters on the front lines. There have been 26 deaths statewide, including a firefighter who died Friday, Sept. 18, while assigned to the El Dorado Fire. The El Dorado Fire was started by a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used at a gender-reveal party during Labor Day weekend in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, according to Cal Fire investigators. The unrelenting

SQF Complex (consists of Castle Fire and the smaller Shotgun Fire)

Location: 10 miles east of the town center of Three Rivers (Golden Trout Wilderness in Sequoia and Inyo national forests; Tulare County); consists of the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire.

Start Date: August 19, 2020 The unrelenting

Cause: Lightning

Acreage: 133,488 (it has doubled in size in 10 days); 
UPDATE ON ACREAGE at 7 am, Sept. 20: 135,802 (a growth of 2,400 acres in 12 hours)
The Castle Fire is 134,970 acres; the Shotgun Fire is 832 acres

Containment of Castle Fire: 14% (an additional 2% containment in 10 days)

Expected Full Containment: End of October 2020 or when the rains come

Structures Threatened: 3,183

Structures Destroyed: 150

Personnel: 1,481 (28 hand crews, 38 water tenders, 9 helicopters, 99 engines, 29 dozers).

Mandatory Evacuations: The unrelenting

THREE RIVERS— Cherokee Oaks subdivision in Three Rivers, South Fork Drive beyond the four-way stop in Three Rivers, Mineral King area cabin communities;

TULE RIVER CANYON— Camp Nelson, Sequoia Crest, Alpine Village, Redwood Drive, Ponderosa, Cedar Slope, Pyles Boys Camp, Coy Flat, Mountain Aire, Pier Point.

Evacuation Warnings: 

THREE RIVERS— The town of Three Rivers not included in the mandatory evacuation;

TULE RIVER CANYON—  Springville between Globe Drive and Balch Park Road.

Three Rivers Area Closures: Cherokee Oaks Drive and connecting roads in the subdivision, South Fork Drive at Blossom Drive, Generals Highway from Sequoia entrance station to The Wye, Kings Canyon Highway from Big Stump entrance station, Mineral King Road at Oak Grove Bridge. Several businesses have closed temporarily due to heavy smoke conditions and evacuation preparations. Three Rivers School will be back in session beginning Monday, Sept. 21, after cancelling (distance-learning) classes last week. The unrelenting

Weather: The forecast is for warming temperatures as the week progresses. Humidity levels, which were excellent on Saturday, Sept. 19, will begin to lower again, which dries out the vegetation and makes it more volatile. On Sunday, Sept. 20, winds are expected to be northeasterly in the morning, becoming south to southwesterly in the afternoon at 5 to 15 mph.

Additional Notes: 

—Air quality in the Kaweah canyon was clearer than it had been in the past 14 days. A shift in winds assisted with the lessening of smoke, although air quality remained in the Hazardous range and ash continued to fall for part of the day.FI

—A 2,500-acre burn was ignited in Grouse Valley (along the fire control road located 6 miles up South Fork Drive). This burn is intended to create a buffer between the Castle Fire and homes in the upper South Fork canyon. The fire should reduce in intensity upon reaching the grasslands and encountering the reduced fuel from the back-burn and the dozer work ongoing in the area.

—The Sequoia Complex is under the unified interagency command of the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 1, CAL FIRE, and National Park Service.The unrelenting

—CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 6 is in command of the west zone of the fire. This is from the team’s report as of 7 pm, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020…

“The western flank continues to be the top priority [toward Blue Ridge] and is still exhibiting active fire behavior. Fire activity continues to be moderated by the dense smoke and inversion layer, producing understory burning effects. When the inversion lifts, dangerous rates of spread are being observed through dense old growth brush that is over 10 ft. tall. Mid-range spotting is developing from dead standing beetle kill and the abundance of fuels on the forest floor. Rollout on steep slopes is promoting slow fire advance. Dead-standing beetle-kill timber is creating single and group tree torching. The heavy dead and down fuels on the steep slopes aids in fire spread into the inaccessible drainages and terrain. Firing operations in the northwest along the Upper Grouse Valley were going well with few spotting or control issues. Fire continues to back down Dennison Mountain to the northeast.”

Return to the front page.

11 thoughts on “FIRE SEASON 2020: The unrelenting, destructive Castle Fire

  • September 20, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Sarah. Once again I thank you for ur updating on the fire. U have been a great source of info

    I feel the fires r as big as they r due to mismanagement of our forest lands. Climate change may be a small part but the worst r the lack of keeping fire roads in good condition and the lack of logging on all those dead trees

    • September 20, 2020 at 11:07 am

      I complimented a higher up in the Tulare County Fuels Reduction Team on the great job they were doing in clearing out burnables along South Fork Road this summer, and was told I was the first compliment after they’d received 4 complaints from residents along the road, upset over this, that and whatever.

      As it turns out the work they’ve done just might be instrumental if the fire creeps down into 3R…

      • September 20, 2020 at 12:46 pm

        I agree this work was crucial in fire management. We all need to help in being good stewards to the land we love.

    • September 20, 2020 at 9:57 pm

      Climate change is here and not a small part of the problem, summer 2020 has been ranked as one of the hottest on record in the U.S. Much of California is on fire and many acres on fire are in federal lands. The current Federal government has pushed to cut agency spending. The fire that is threatening Three Rivers at the moment is telling as resources are limited because of the many climate change fueled fires in California and budget cuts by the current administration.

  • September 20, 2020 at 7:19 am

    I am very grateful for these daily updates. Thank you!

  • September 20, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Another great report! Thank you both so much for your ongoing dedication to our town.

  • September 20, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Now in the Bay Area, your succinct, wonderfully Three Rivers oriented daily updates are the best issued. Thank you!

  • September 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Any and all information on the South Fork Drive area is and will be appreciated.Thank you

  • September 20, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    2:30 pm
    SCICON AND my brother’s home have been spared! The fire stopped less than 1/4 mile up the road! He credits the work of the fire crew who tirelessly created the firebreaks just directly East and South of him. Thanking God for His answer to many prayers❣️

  • September 20, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    These updates are very helpful especially for those who evacated their homes.

    I agree the fuel reduction on SouthFork Drive was well executed. I personally thank the team every time I went down the road.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.