UPDATE – August 24, 2015:
Acreage: 49,440 acres
Personnel: 2126 Firefighters, including 24 crews, 148 engines and 10 helicopters
Incident command: Moved from Hume Lake Christian Camp to Hume Ranger District office in Dunlap. Currently located on Highway 180n in Squaw Valley (Fresno County).
Weather forecast: High pressure will remain centered over Arizona through Tuesday, Aug. 25, and will push northwest toward the fire area. Light winds are expected. Temperatures will trend higher and humidity will trend lower. The inversion layer will persist, causing smoky conditions from midnight to 10 a.m. in many areas.
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PUBLISHED IN THE AUGUST 21 PRINT EDITION: Three weeks ago, when lightning strikes ignited brush fires on a steep ridge in Sierra National Forest, it was difficult to predict what those fires might do. On August 20, all of those who live, work, and play along the western slope of the southern Sierra Nevada became painfully aware of the volatility of the parched landscape that has now produced a raging inferno capable of burning for the rest of the summer season.
The Rough Fire began July 31 on the north side of the Middle Fork of the Kings River. It was located five miles north of Hume Lake and just south of Spanish Mountain in remote, inaccessible terrain.
The latest reports, which are being released multiple times per day, have the Rough Fire at 33,000 acres, although heavy smoke production from the fire has limited the ability to accurately size the fire. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the fire jumped Highway 180 at Horseshoe Bend near Boyden Cavern, which caused the evacuation of nearly 2,500 people from the Hume Lake Christian Camp area just a few miles away.
Dubbed the Rough Fire because it started in the Rough Creek drainage, the locale has proven difficult to put firefighters on the ground along the perimeter. The strategy so far has called for water and retardant drops from numerous aircraft but intense smoke has made dangerous conditions for aircraft.
Recurring smoke and white ash that first showed up in Three Rivers on Monday, Aug. 17, are likely to hang around until a major weather change or the more than 1,100 firefighters currently at the scene get control of the blaze.
As of August 20, the fire was estimated to be three percent contained. The Cedar Grove area and its only road in and out of the canyon, Highway 180, was closed and evacuated last week. This week, Hume Lake, Jennie Lakes, and Monarch Lakes areas are also closed. Highway 180 is closed beyond the Grant Tree road, but the Grant Grove area, the Generals Highway, and the visitor facilities and campgrounds between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park remain open.
The firefighting efforts are being managed jointly by an interagency team that includes both U.S. Forest Service and NPS personnel.
For the latest fire information and an update on closures and evacuations, call (559) 565-3704 or log onto http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4456/.