SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST – As the French Fire nears total containment, the Incident Command Post (ICP) at the Old Mill Site in North Fork is about to be being dismantled.
The new ICP will be located at the Minarets Work Center, where crews will be stationed near the area that does not yet have secured firelines.
The fire is 90% contained at 13,835 acres, and the focus has shifted away from the emergency response mode of putting the fire out, to doing rehab work.
Today crews continued fireline suppression repair and mop-up on all parts of the fire. The majority of the heat continues to be in the northern half, while the southern portion consists mostly of isolated heat sources. There are still some areas where ground fire and isolated torching is occurring. Overall the entire fire is cooling off with only the large logs burning out. As the fire continues to cool, some areas may still produce smoke for several more days. Helicopters are still being used to improve operations.
Within the next few days, the Type 2 Incident Management Team will turn control of the fire back to the local forest, after negotiating with the district to determine the level of personnel and resources needed, and for what length of time.
Saturday will be a “shadow day” during which command is overlapped as the transition takes place from the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team (SCSIIMT) and the local forest, which will bring in a Type 3 team to manage the incident to its conclusion.
“We don’t have the resources to do all the work on our own,” says Bass Lake District Ranger Dave Martin, who notes there is still a lot to be done. “Also, our local Forest Service personnel need to be ready for new emergency fire situations and get back to their regular jobs.”
Radio repeaters are being removed from mountain tops, helicopters and strike teams are headed off to other assignments or returning to their stations, and miles and piles of dirty hose are being rolled, stacked and returned to the fire cache in Ontario, Calif. It is estimated that about 120,000 feet of hose was used on the French Fire, or nearly 23 miles.
The SCSIIMT will take the camp apart with the same efficiency with which they put to together, and turn the mill site back to the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, the Madera County Fire Department and the Community Development Council. By Monday, the area occupied by French Town will once again be an empty dirt lot.
The number of personnel assigned to the incident is currently 1,270, down from over 1,900 just a few days ago.
The fire area will likely remain closed to the public for several weeks, as the hazard of burned and dead trees is mitigated. There are also dangers such as stump holes that may have smoldering coals below the ground that are not visible to someone walking through the area.
Firefighting resources, such as engines and crews, will continue to be demobilized and sent to other fires in northern California. The public is reminded that a lot of firefighting equipment will still be traveling on the roads going into the French Fire area, and others will be leaving the community heading to other incidents.
Forest Road 4S81 (Minarets/Mammoth Pool Road) between Arch Rock and Redinger Overlook and Forest Road 6S01 (Grizzly Road) between Beasore Road and Minarets Road remain closed to for all public use, including local residents.
The Gaggs Campground, which is west of the fire area, is not within the forest closure area and remains open for public use. The Whisky Falls Campground is within the forest closure and will be closed for public use until the forest closure is lifted. The French Fire did not impact the Whisky Falls Campground.
Investigators continue to seek the public’s help in identifying the person or persons responsible for the abandoned campfire that started the French Fire just below Rock Creek Campground. Anyone with information about persons seen in the area of Rock Creek Road near the San Joaquin River during the afternoon or evening of Sunday, July 27, is encouraged to call the 559-877-2605.
For more information about the Forest Closure and the closure, visit http://tinyurl.com/o44cvyu.