NORTH FORK – A thick blanket of smoke hung over fire camp again this morning as the Willow Fire, burning between North Fork and Bass Lake, has now grown to 1,739 acres and is still listed at 5 percent containment.
There are 8 helicopters assigned to the fire today, and a new heliport has been established in Auberry for the heavies and 2 medium ships, saving the flight time from Fresno. These resources can be over the fire in just 5 minutes from this new location.
Five air tankers will also be working the incident today. No VLATs were available yesterday, but the Large Air Tankers did work the fire.
Late yesterday afternoon, spot fires could be seen outside the retardant line on the southern end of the fire. Three air tankers were called up just after 7 p.m., to lay down retardant and anchored in the burn. The Smokey Bear Hotshots and dozers then worked through the night to get a line around the spot, which grew to 70 acres along Division Z (see map below), pushing south along the South Fork Bluffs and across the face of Peckinpah Mountain.
Fire activity along the western perimeter was relatively quiet overnight (Divisions A & B), and the lines are reported to be in “good shape.” Crews will continue to improve firelines and do mop-up, while fallers come in to take down snags.
On the north end, in the newly created Division C, the fire is trying to push farther up into the Sand Creek drainage, with a potential for spotting, especially into the afternoon hours as temperatures rise.
Crews got lines around all the spot fires off the eastern flank overnight, and continue to secure firelines and do mop-up where possible.
The old dozer line from the 2001 North Fork Fire has also been reopened, running from Peckinpah Acres road, northeast above Cascadel Woods (see map below, Division Y).
Crews continue to triage structures along Douglas Ranger Station Road, which is closed from Trails End Road north.
There will be a Town Hall Meeting tonight at the North Fork Town Hall at 7 p.m. for the community to hear from fire officials and be able to have questions answered.
Road 274 reopened yesterday at noon, though all other closures and evacuations remain in place as of 8 a.m. today.
Whiskers Camp, Gaggs Camp, Whiskey Falls and Central Camp are still closed.
Autumn Ridge Way (Whiskey Falls Road/Forest Road 8S09) is closed at Cascadel Woods, and the campgrounds above it have been evacuated.
There are over 1,200 personnel assigned to the incident, with approximately 200 more expected to arrive within the next 24 hours if available.
The Incident Command Post continues to build out at the Old Mill Site, including a heliport. Crews are also utilizing the Rec Center and the North Fork School for sleeping accommodations.
Repeaters have been set up on Goat Mountain and Shuteye Peak to facilitate optimum radio communications.
No structures have been lost in the Willow Fire, and no injuries reported. Some firefighters have suffered the effects of dehydration, and a couple have come down sick.
The Red Cross Evacuation Center at the Oakhurst Community Center is now only open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide needed assistance and answer questions. There are no evacuees using the facility for overnight stays.
The Central California Animal Disaster Team shelter has closed down.
The cause of the Willow Fire is still under investigation.
(Click maps to enlarge)