NORTH FORK – The challenges continue on the southern perimeter of the Willow Fire, as it continues pushing its way across the South Fork Bluffs on the western face of Peckinpah Mountain.
Now estimated at 2,077 acres with 30 percent containment, the fire’s southern division was characterized as “an interesting beast” during this morning’s briefing at the Incident Command Post in North Fork.
The very active fire behavior in that section has negated attempts to construct direct line on the southeast perimeter, and night crews were pulled off the lines as firefighters lost ground in their efforts to corral the fire in the steep, rocky terrain. The fire ran about 1/2 mile to the south, farther into the burn footprint of the 2001 North Fork fire, which is thick brush, large downed timber and snags.
Other sections of the fire were fairly quiet overnight, with crews continuing to strengthen lines and do mop-up inside the lines along the eastern and western perimeters.
On the northern edge, a change in wind direction stopped the forward progress last night as firefighters continue to tie in with dozer lines at the 7 Rock near Sand Creek. The extremely steep terrain in this section poses risk to crews of rocks and burning logs rolling downhill.
Hotter temperatures and lower humidities over the next few days, along with winds gusting up to 10 mph, create the potential for extreme fire behavior. Temperatures near 100 degrees are expected in fire camp today.
Fire activity is predicted to be most active in the footprint of the 2001 fire, where 5 to 50 percent slopes face the southwest, and afternoon heat and up-canyon winds create dangerous conditions for firefighters.
Air support will be concentrated on the southeast section of the fire today, and the northern division near Sand Creek.
Firefighters continue their work on contingency lines, utilizing the old dozer line from Peckinpah Creek, running northeast to the area above Cascadel Woods. There has also been a dozer line cut in from the Willow Creek drainage up to the Central Camp Road.
Crews also continue structure triage and protection along Douglas Ranger Station Road and Central Camp.
A portable retardant plant has been set up at the heliport at the Incident Command Post in North Fork, allowing for about 3-minute turn times for helicopters working the fire.
There are 1,487 personnel currently assigned to the incident, with 71 engines, 21 hand crews, 23 water tenders, 16 dozers, 8 helicopters, and 5 air tankers available.
Douglas Ranger Station Road remains closed north of Trails End Road. Whiskers Camp, Gaggs Camp, Whiskey Falls and Central Camp are still closed.
Willow Canyon Road is closed at Road 274. Central Camp Road is closed at Road 274 and at Beasore Road. Autumn Ridge Way (Whiskey Falls Road/Forest Road 8S09) is closed at Cascadel Woods, and the campgrounds above it have been evacuated.
A juvenile boy has been identified as the person who started the Willow Fire when he was playing with a lighter, burning branches, and the fire got away from him. Charges are expected to be filed later this week, according to the Madera County District Attorney.
The Willow Fire started on Saturday, July 25, at about 2 p.m., and is burning just east of the south shore of Bass Lake, and about three miles north of North Fork, Calif.
Cooperating agencies include Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, CHP, Madera County Sheriff’s Office, PG&E, the American Red Cross, California Office of Emergency Services, the California Conservation Corp, and the Mono Rancheria of Mono Indians.