Rough Fire reaches 77 percent containment


In an area of more than 143,000 acres, it will take more time to ensure all islands are burned, tree snags and stumps extinguished, and all hot spots are out. According to Type 1 incident team commander Rocky Oplinger, some stumps and snags will continue give off heat all winter but these areas shouldn’t be a problem.

Control lines are set in all critical areas and the fire is still in both control/mop-up and suppression/repair status. By Saturday, Septe. 26, as containment increases, Oplinger said the fire strategy should be less control and more repair.

Although fire spread continues in several areas, it has significantly slowed and all major burnouts have been completed.  Smoke impacts, depending on weather, should be decreasing in all areas. 

At Monday’s (September 21) weekly public meeting in Dunlap, Oplinger said the key operation currently was finishing the burnout at McKenzie Ridge. That burning northeast of Sequoia Lake established a buffer that kept fire from crossing Hwy. 180 to the south and protected any new fire from spreading northeast back into the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. 

Brush and fuels in those steepest areas have been accumulating for 60 to 100 years, Oplinger said. The aggressive firefighting tactics near Grant Grove allowed those area’s facilities to be reopened to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 22.  

The General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon Visitor Center, John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove Cabin, restaurant, market, and the Panoramic Point Road opened on Tuesday; on Thursday Grant Grove campgrounds were reopened. The Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park is closed until Spring 2016.

Michael Theune, fire education specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said firefighters did an outstanding job protecting the park’s national treasures in Grant Grove. The fact that the National Park Service had completed prescribed burn projects in Grant Grove helped firefighters get control of the fire as it encroached on the Grant Grove of giant sequoias, home of the General Grant Tree.

“Reopening Grant Grove this week is just one of many success stories that will be told in the aftermath of the Rough Fire,” Theune said. “There was impressive collaboration between all the agencies working together with park staff, local residents, and the Wilsonia community.”

Active personnel assigned to the fire as of Thursday, Sept. 24, was 1,070 with more expecting to be released by the end of the weekend. As fire activity winds down, fire headquarters will be relocated to Sequoia Lake as teams arrive on scene to repair dozer damage, oversee wood cutting and removal, and generally prepare the burned-out areas for winter rains.

Kevin Elliott, Sequoia National Forest supervisor spoke at Monday’s meeting in Dunlap.

“For the past 53 days, the Rough Fire has been up to 3,700 skilled and passionate professionals working together,” Elliott said. “There was nothing normal about this fire yet we will have a successful outcome.”  

The Rough Fire costs are expected to exceed $111 million, ranking it among the costliest fires ever in California. For the latest information on the fire, including what’s closed and what’s not, call (559) 549-4837.  



Date started: July 31, 2015

Cause: Lightning

Size: 143,559 acres

   Sequoia National Forest:   

   82,288 acres 

   Sierra National Forest: 

   51,645 acres 

   Kings Canyon National  

   Park: 8,564 acres

   Private Land: 1,057 acres 

   State Land: 6 acres

Containment: 77%

Structures destroyed: 4

Firefighter injuries: 10

Personnel: 1,070 (16 crews, 46 engines, 8 helicopters, 10 bulldozers, 29 water tenders)

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