At a community meeting in Dunlap on Wednesday evening, Aug. 26, an incident management team updated the public on the latest strategies to contain an erratic wildfire that has already scorched 56,000 acres of land on the Sierra and Sequoia national forests. A map posted at the meeting showed that near the southeastern perimeter of the burned area, fire has already passed through at least two giant sequoia groves — the Lockwood Grove and the Evans Grove.
Also in the fire’s immediate path is the Kennedy Grove, home to the Ishi Giant Tree, the 14th largest giant sequoia. The tree has been burned in the past, but its huge base rivals that of the massive General Sherman Tree.
Mark Von Tillow, incident commander of the Rough Fire’s interagency management team, announced that emergency measures are being taken to protect natural and cultural resources at risk in the Converse Basin, located near the southwestern perimeter of the fire.
Approximately 12,000 feet of hose has been placed in the vicinity to protect the Boole Tree, the Chicago Stump, and fragile wildlife habitat in the basin. Prehistoric and historic artifacts remain in abundance in the Converse Grove. The oldest stump in the Converse Basin is believed to be 3,200 years old.
The suppression strategy for the Rough Fire will employ a combination of direct, indirect, and point protection. Fire line will only be constructed where it is feasible and safe for firefighters.
Von Tillow’s team issued a release that stated the key to suppressing this fire is flexibility and timing — knowing when to apply the right resource at the right time.
On Thursday, Aug. 20, Kings Canyon Lodge became the first structural casualty as the fire destroyed the historic lodge, built in the early 20th century, and its guest cabins. The wayside facility, which provided food, gas, and beds to Highway 180 travelers, has been owned by the Evans family for over 60 years.
It is located between Yucca Point and Ten Mile Creek on a remote stretch of the Kings Canyon Highway, where there is only one way in and one way out. Another cabin in proximity to the fire but in a different location from the lodge, also owned by the Evanses, was spared.
Lewis Evans, owner, said he plans to rebuild. However, fire insurance was impossible to retain on the property so there was none.
As the fire has spread, ongoing closures remain in effect for Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park and the entire Hume Lake Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest. Grant Grove has reopened but the area is inundated daily by heavy smoke and lots of fire vehicles and personnel.
All campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park (Grant Grove, Cedar Grove) are closed.
As of Thursday, August 27, officials were estimating the fire was 25 percent contained. There are more than 2,000 firefighting personnel working in various capacities to combat the blaze.
A cooling trend in the weekend weather forecast is expected to improve nighttime conditions for suppression activities on the ground. Heavy smoke is expected to continue in the mornings on the west side of the Sierra and in the afternoons on the eastern slope.
The latest information on the progress of the fire is available by calling (559) 332-2028.
For air quality concerns, call the Fresno office of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District at (559) 230-6000.
For the latest fire information online, go to http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4456/.
The Kaweah Commonwealth has been providing Rough Fire updates daily, or more as they are available, on its Facebook page.