Northern California Fire Update: July 4th 2008


a day at the lake

Threats of evacuations, road openings and closures, and massive air attacks on north state wildfires dominated the day Thursday.

The Martin Mars water bomber was airborne again Thursday, dropping thousands of gallons of water on the Lime Complex fires in Trinity County and on the Motion Fire west of Shasta Dam later in the day.

The world’s largest water-scooping aircraft, which arrived from British Columbia on Saturday, is temporarily based on Lake Shasta at Bridge Bay Resort. Boaters and houseboat vacationers got an eyeful late Thursday morning when visibility was clear enough for the massive aircraft to take off near the Pit River bridge.

The World War 2-era plane scooped water from the Sacramento River arm of the lake so it could dump its fire-suppressing mix of water and gel on the fires.

Thursday was the third day of operation for the water bomber. It made drops Monday and Tuesday, but was grounded Wednesday because of hazy skies.

“We’re working around the smoke,” said the plane’s owner, Wayne Coulson of Coulson Flying Tankers.

U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials welcome the presence of the plane, which is under contract to the two agencies. “It will stay here until we no longer need it,” said Forest Service spokesman Ron Dehart.

Residents of Big Flat, west of Helena on Highway 299 in Trinity County, waited much of the day under the threat of evacuation as the Eagle Fire, part of the Iron Complex of fires, threatened to move in the town’s direction Thursday afternoon.

As of 5 p.m. the order from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department to evacuate had not come. The Sheriff’s Department had advised Big Flat residents to have their belongings ready in case evacuations are ordered.

A number of roads in the north state were reopened Thursday. Closures were lifted on Rainbow Lake and Buell roads at Platina Road, as was Zogg Mine Road at South Fork Road. A “soft closure” still remains on the north end of Iron Mountain Road at Rock Creek Road, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Highway 36 west was reopened at 11 p.m. Wednesday, but Highway 32 remained closed from its junction with Highway 36 near Deer Creek in Tehama County down to Butte Meadows near Lomo in Butte County, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation said Thursday. Officials have no estimate of when the road will be reopened.

Highway 70 is closed five miles west of Pulga at Big Bend Road in Butte County to its junction with Highway 89 at Greenville Wye in Plumas County due to falling rocks and fire activity.

For the most part, fires in the north state held steady Thursday while crews attacked the flames on the ground and from the air. Blazes under Cal Fire’s responsibility totaled 53,600 acres with 48 percent overall containment. Cal Fire’s suppression costs amounted to $16.2 million as of Thursday evening.

The Deerlick Complex:

This series of fires remained at 16,800 acres Thursday evening and containment held at 30 percent, a Cal Fire spokesman said.

Other fires in Shasta County also continued to hold. The Motion Complex was burning on 16,700 acres of land with crews holding it at 50 percent containment. The Moon Complex was at 18,600 acres and 25 percent contained. The Lower Grass Valley Fire, at 475 acres, was up to 95 percent containment.

The Iron Complex:

In the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, this series of 15 blazes threatening communities along Highway 299 west of Junction City grew to 21,056 acres by Thursday night, 29 percent of it contained.

Several fires have merged while five are uncontained and 10 have been contained.

The high-priority Zeigler Fire stayed at 581 acres and 30 percent containment, and was growing to the east. The Cedar Fire, another high-priority fire, was at 600 acres with no containment.

The Ironside Fire, consisting of eight merged fires, was at 11,559 acres and 50 percent contained. The Eagle Fire near Junction City had burned 5,098 acres and was 50 percent contained. It continues to spread slowly to the south and west.

The 20-acre Denny fire was at zero percent containment.

The Lime Complex:

Good progress was reported on several of the fires Thursday, including the Lime, Noble, Miners and Rainbow fires. The Trough Fire jumped the South Fork Trinity River.

A total of 39 fires were active while 31 were contained near Hyampom, Hayfork and Platina. As of Thursday night, the complex of blazes was up to 39,749 acres and 57 percent contained overall.

The Martin Mars water bomber and two air tankers assisted firefighters on the ground.

Crews estimate the Noble Fire, at 12,756 acres and 90 percent containment, will be controlled by 6 p.m. Sunday. The Telephone Fire was fully contained Thursday night at 6,014 acres. The Deadshot Fire, at 1,055 acres, was fully contained.

The Alps Complex:

This series of 13 fires in the Trinity Alps Wilderness grew to 3,993 acres and was at 5 percent containment Thursday night.

The Clem and Buckhorn fires grew together for a total of 3,285 acres with 8 percent containment.

The Granite Fire was being held using the Granite Creek Trail as a fireline.

The number of fire acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was at 64,798 Thursday night with 53 active fires. The federal fire cost was up to $17.7 million.

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