CASTLE FIRE UPDATE, Three Rivers, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020— As part of CALFIRE’s efforts to protect the South Fork area of Three Rivers, a 2-mile-by-2-mile swath of grassland was back-burned Friday in Grouse Valley to provide a buffer as the fire attempts to enter the South Fork river canyon where there are residences and other structures. Dozers are also at work in this area. More of the South Fork is scheduled to be black-lined in the ensuing days to ensure the protection of Three Rivers.
SQF Complex Fire Incident Command Center
Currently headquartered at the Porterville Fairgrounds, the SQF Complex Fire Incident Command Center is a veritable city of firefighting activity — personnel, equipment, supplies, and technology. At any one time, 24/7 for the duration of this fire, there are likely to be hundreds of agency personnel at IC — CALFIRE, Tulare County Fire and Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM, and interagency personnel on loan from both the federal government and the State of California, in addition to all the support services in place to ensure the interagency team can do its job.
On Friday, September 18, at the request of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, members of the media were invited to IC center to attend a CALFIRE briefing and also tour some of the burned areas along Highway 190. The purpose of the briefing and tour was to familiarize members of the media with the public information channels and the DOs and the DON’Ts of fire coverage. For example, devastated areas with structures may be photographed but the Sheriff’s Office has requested that images of burned cabins and homes not be posted until property owners have been notified.
For 3R News, it was an opportunity to meet members of the Incident Command team and put a face on the public information personnel who we talk with often via the telephone. Representing Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was John Ziegler, Fire Management Officer. Ziegler related that looking at the changing weather pattern, this fire on the Three Rivers side is destined to be a park fire and burn itself out in the northeast zone.
Ziegler reported that there is fire already in Garfield Grove but it is “backing down” and expected to do what fire needs to do in a giant sequoia grove. Ziegler began his career with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1987; he said his first fire was a fire on Case Mountain that same year. The current fire is moving toward that vicinity.
Ziegler also pointed out that the difference between the fire burning thousands of acres of national forest (6,500 acres in the last 24 hours) and national park land is that much of the trajectory of this fire (Case Mountain and the East Fork of the Kaweah Fire) has experienced a more normal burn regimen. He said the prescribed burning in Grant Grove is what stopped the Rough Fire (2015) in its tracks. This could be the case for the Castle Fire as it will meet up with the previous Eden and Horse lightning-caused fires in the Hockett Meadow region and, failing that, the prescribed fire footprint in the Tar Gap area of Mineral King.
In the above video clip, Scott Lane, CALFIRE Battalion Chief, explains the current work that is going on in the West Zone (includes the Three Rivers side of the SQF Complex) and why the most active part of the fire is taking a turn to the northeast.