A lower portion of the Garfield Grove trail in the oak woodland that has become overgrown with vegetation, including poison oak.


Snowslide Canyon is a massive scar (in photo) on the north flank of Dennison Ridge, created by an 1867 avalanche that brought down so much debris that it dammed the South Fork of the Kaweah River. This led to massive flooding after the water created enough pressure to break through the blockage. The Castle Fire has burned through this area as it works its way down the mountain into the South Fork canyon.

Location: 12 air miles east of the town center of Three Rivers; 10 air miles west of Mineral King (Golden Trout Wilderness in Sequoia and Inyo national forests; Tulare County); consists of the Castle Fire and Shotgun Fire.

Expected Full Containment: Date has been adjusted to October 10, 2020, three weeks earlier than the previous date of October 31. CASTLE FIRE PROGRESSION


September 25— 144,777

September 26— 148,850

September 27— 149,888

September 28— 150,286

September 29— 150,800

Containment of Castle Fire: 

September 25— 36% 

September 26— 39% 

September 27— 47% 

September 28— 50% 

September 29— 58% 

Structures Threatened: None! (This is a major change; on September 23, structures threatened were 3,143)

(All in the cabin communities off Highway 190 east of Springville)

September 25— 161

September 26— 173  (no change in this number)

Personnel (and +/- difference since last report): 

September 251,763 total (+255) | 27 hand crews (+2), 37 water tenders (+2), 9 helicopters (same), 110 engines (+7), 53 dozers (+18).

September 261,998 total | 36 hand crews, 40 water tenders, 18 helicopters, 159 engines, 31 dozers 

September 272,058 total | 40 hand crews, 39 water tenders, 21 helicopters, 156 engines, 34 dozers 

September 282,249 total | 46 hand crews, 38 water tenders, 21 helicopters, 167 engines, 33 dozers 

September 291,987 total | 43 hand crews, 35 water tenders, 11 helicopters, 132 engines, 28 dozers 

Analysis and Updates (September 26)The portion of the Castle Fire continuing to be the most active is in Sequoia National Park north of Dennison Ridge. This fire has now met the back-burned area to the northwest in the Grouse Valley/Creek/Peak area that is intended to stop its growth into the upper South Fork canyon. The portion of fire in Garfield Grove is about 1 mile from the South Fork river. Another section of the blaze is 2 miles away from South Fork Campground. BUT NOTE: Growth has remained slow for the past few days. There is a weather change looming, which typically means wind gusts. The increase in temperatures over the next week will bring with it the associated challenges when attempting to stop a fire in the wildland. C

Analysis and Updates (September 29): 

—The west side of the Castle Fire is almost completely contained. That is a huge amount of progress over the past week. There is a contingency line on Cinnamon Gap in the Case Mountain area, a backup if the fire makes a run for it. Firefighters remain on watch duty in the Mineral King area.

—Sequoia National Park has been closed for two weeks. The opening of Sequoia from Three Rivers is dependent on the lifting of the evacuation warning in Three Rivers. “Once [the evacuation warning] is lifted, the plan is to reopen,” reported Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, parks public information officer.

The Mineral King area remains closed and will transition directly into winter mode so will not open to the public again until Memorial Day 2021.

—Salt Creek trails remain closed to bikers and hikers due to the usage of the fire roads by vehicles and equipment to access Cinnamon Gap and Case Mountain.

—South Fork Drive residents who live above Cinnamon Canyon Road (between miles 5.5 and 9.5) remain under mandatory evacuation.

—A portable retardant base was set up Sunday, September 27, at the Schrock Ranch (beginning of North Fork Drive) in Three Rivers, which enables aircraft to fight the northwest side of the Castle Fire from the closest location. From the base by North Fork Bridge, the CH-47 military helicopter can fly to the northern flank of Dennison Mountain, the most active portion of the fire, in under 10 minutes to drop its 2,000 gallons of retardant load. This is the most efficient way to contain the northern portion of the Castle Fire due to the remote locations and lack of roads in these areas. CASTLE FIRE PROGRESSION

Hot, dry conditions are forecast for this week, which will present challenges to firefighters on the Castle Fire and throughout the state. The high temperature for Three Rivers will be in the low 90s, a significant reduction from the 100-degree week that was formerly being forecast. Both Northern and Southern California are under red flag warnings due to strong offshore winds and high fire danger.

From CALFIRE Incident Management Team 6’s morning report for the Dennison Mountain area (9/29): Minimal overnight humidity recovery allowed the backing fire spread off of Dennison Mountain to continue to progress. A thermal belt set in around 3,500 feet elevation and produced warm, dry conditions in the mid slope areas, which aided the active fire in continuing its spread. Below 3,500 feet elevation, the inversion layer limited fire activity and spread. Heat from the heavy dead down logs and fire weakened timber that remains close to the control lines and still poses a significant threat due to release and ember cast.


An ancient giant sequoia snag stands in testimony that the Garfield Grove has endured fire in the past. According to South Fork resident John Uhlir, who has been researching the subject, it’s possible there has been no fire in this grove for nearly a century.


Proof of a long-ago fire on this Big Tree trunk that grows in Garfield Grove on the north side of Dennison Ridge.


The trailhead sign at South Fork Campground in the remote southern portion of Sequoia National Park. The Castle Fire is 2 miles from the campground.

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14 thoughts on “CASTLE FIRE PROGRESSION: The daily stats

  • September 29, 2020 at 7:25 am

    Much appreciated Sarah!!

  • September 29, 2020 at 7:53 am

    That was a very well written and informative update on the Castle Fire. Thank you, Sarah.

    I don’t represent the national park, but I’m pretty sure the park conducted prescribed burns in Garfield Grove in the late 1980s, perhaps 1989. There may not have been any significant burning in the grove in the last three decades.

    • September 29, 2020 at 9:03 am

      Thank you! I will research and update.

  • September 29, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Even those of us who have moved away from Three Rivers but keep it in our hearts appreciate your thorough postings about the fire. Thank you for that.

  • September 29, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Great summation. Thanks much!

  • September 29, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for these very concise and clear summaries. You’ve become expert at deciphering CAlFire information!

  • September 29, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Dear John & Sarah: I will add my thanks and appreciation for your coverage. Your photos and information have done so much to allay our fears and worries over the fire’s growth. Keep up the good work!

  • September 29, 2020 at 10:30 am

    I am so thankful for these informative updates! I really appreciate them. They are so helpful for knowing what is going on so close to home.

  • September 29, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for your help in my attempt to understand what is taking place in the South Fork Dr. area of Three Rivers

  • September 29, 2020 at 10:40 am

    Thank you for your frequent updates. These are very much appreciated. We look forward to moving home with all our fur babies.

  • September 29, 2020 at 11:31 am

    Informative, clear and concise updates.
    Many thanks!

  • September 29, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    Your research and clarity is beyond impressive. I need this information to keep updated on behalf of our bed & breakfast guests. Thank you over and over.

    Monica, Innkeeper
    Wicky Up Ranch Bed & Breakfast


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