NORTH FORK – Nov 6, 2020 – Fire managers are bracing for a drastic weather change today and continuing through the weekend that will severely impact firefighting and suppression repair efforts.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the Sierra Nevadas, including the San Joaquin Valley, starting at noon today through 10 p.m. Sunday.
Total snow accumulation of 12-15 inches at elevations of 7,000 feet or higher and 6-12 inches at elevations of 5,000 to 7,000 feet is possible. Temperatures will drop below freezing Saturday and Sunday, creating potential driving hazards on roads.
Sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts up to 55 mph are expected at elevations of 7,500 feet and higher on Friday.
“I’m expecting these winds to take down hazard trees,” Incident Meteorologist Angie Enyedi said, alluding to the danger falling trees pose to firefighters. As always, safety is the number one priority for all personnel on the fire.
Some heavy equipment working on suppression repair at higher elevations will be moved to lower elevations to reduce driving risk.
Working conditions for firefighters will be assessed as the storm blows in to determine whether to hold personnel in camp for safety reasons. It remains to be seen if this will be a “season-ending event” but the cold air mass and considerable moisture should significantly reduce fire behavior on active parts of the fire.
“It’s going to take some of the punch out of it but we’re going to continue to have fire on the landscape for quite some time,” Incident Fire Behavior Analyst Byron Kimball said. “With the amount of heat we have out there it’s going to take a significant amount of moisture to put this fire out.”
The strong winds, combined with critically dry fuels and low relative humidity, will produce elevated fire danger across the fire early today until the weather moves in. The majority of active fire behavior remains in the northeast corner of the fire east of Pond Lilly Lake and the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, about 6 miles southwest of Mammoth.
The fire has been slowly progressing east the last few days but was “relatively quiet” on Thursday, Kimball said. “We aren’t seeing any real eastward push yet,” he said. “It’s holding along the ridge between the Middle Fork and Fish Creek.”
Models indicate the strong winds could push the fire to the east and fire managers will be monitoring fire activity closely.
Resources have been positioned in Mammoth to take action if necessary.
Crews and heavy equipment operators have completed repair on roughly 440 of 600 miles of fireline.
Work continues to repair roads, salvage timber and remove hazard trees along roads and in campgrounds.
Sierra National Forest Closures: For the latest information, please click on https://www.fs.usda.gov/sierra/
Incident website: inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7147/ Twitter: @Sierra_NF / Facebook: @sierranationalforest
Fire Information Line: 559-549-3781 (8 am to 9 pm daily) or email firstname.lastname@example.org