SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST – Firefighters had their work cut out for them on the northern zones of the French Fire today.
Fire activity was moderate until about 2 p.m., but as the wind and topography aligned, activity picked up and the fire began exhibiting extreme behavior and rapid rates of spread.
Residents living in the community of Arnold Meadow were evacuated this afternoon as conditions deteriorated. A Strike Team (5 engines) was sent in to provide structure defense. Several summer homes in the Hogue Apple Ranch and Wagner’s Resort were evacuated earlier in the week.
The fire crossed Shakeflat Creek and is moving north. Crews will work through the night building containment lines on the northern perimeter. The Incident Management Team anticipates that the perimeter will continue to grow on the north and west sides of the fire.
The burning operation was again successful on the southern edge, where an anchor point and burnout operation is underway, providing for structure defense in the Hogue Ranch and Kinsman Flat area.
The fire has now burned all the way down to the San Joaquin River, effectively removing fuels that might later ignite, sending cinders across to the eastern side. To ensure that nothing spots across the river, one Cobra helicopter is tasked with patrolling the river canyon and the eastern edge. Also, each night an aircraft using an infrared camera flies over and sends images back to the Incident Command Team, mapping the fire and showing where the hot spots are.
“Those thermal cameras can pick up a hot soda can,” said John Cook during a meeting of cooperators this morning at the Incident Command Post in North Fork. It is his job to monitor the air quality during this incident.
Cook notes that portable monitors have been set up at Shaver Lake, Devil’s Post Pile, and in Yosemite and North Fork. Data is used, among other things, to delineate periods of time when air quality is better, allowing those adversely affected by the smoke to plan activities during times when the effects are lessened.
Troy Whitman, Corporate Fire Liaison for Southern California Edison, says his company has a 12,000 volt line that runs through the middle of the French Fire, up to Mammoth Pool. His company anticipates needing to replace an estimated 6 miles of wire and up to 70 power poles, many of which will have to be set by helicopter due to the terrain and limited access.
Whitman says they were able to reactivate the power lines at the Hogue Ranch today, prompting a phone call from a grateful Dan Gamel.
Several District Rangers from other National Forests are at the Incident Command Post, using the French Fire as a learning and training opportunity. They will be shadowing members of the Team throughout the process.
The French Fire continues to produce large amounts of smoke, which has impacted local communities, especially in the morning hours. Up-slope breezes occur during the day, which will often take smoke into higher elevations. In the evening, these winds change direction and bring smoke back down. For more information about smoke impacts, please visit the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Districts website at: http://valleyair.org/wildfires.htm
A Forest Service Area Road and Trail Closure, Forest Order # 15-14-07, has been issued for the French Fire area. More information about the Forest Closure and the closure can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/o44cvyu.
There are currently 1,560 personnel assigned to the incident, which is reported at 8,207 acres with 15% containment. An update on acreage will be released in the morning fire update after a mapping flight is conducted tonight.
High pressure will prevail over the area with little change in conditions over the weekend. Temperatures are expected to be above normal throughout the remainder of the week.