Northern California Fire Update: 8-6-08

We had some pretty big boomers roll through here night before last. They started 26 more fires. We also got a lot of rain with the lightening, so it was not as bad as it could have been.

More than 1,000 lightning strikes pelted Northern California on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, sparking at least 26 wildfires in Shasta County, while the Eagle Fire in Trinity County kicked up again and escaped its containment lines.

The Eagle Fire, which had burned 24,775 acres near Junction City and was declared contained on Monday, flared up because of gusty winds and burned about 500 more acres, fire information officer Les Russell said.

“There’s a good column of smoke coming up from it,” he said.

Russell said the fire was burning outside its western containment line but was burning away from Junction City and did not pose an immediate threat.

It was being patrolled by a crew on Wednesday evening, he said.

Meanwhile, the largest of those lightning-sparked fires in Shasta County was estimated to be about 2 acres, but they were all burning in rugged and difficult-to-reach terrain, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman said.

“It’s just a matter of gaining access,” Cal Fire spokesman Justin Smith said. Lightning strikes “do not typically hit right next to a road.”

An estimated 200 lightning strikes started the fires Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the Burney, Shingletown and Whitmore areas in eastern Shasta County, he said, adding that another lightning-caused fire was burning north of Shasta Bally in western Shasta County. The fire north of Shasta Bally was contained to one-half acre, Smith said.

Davida Carnahan, a spokeswoman for the Klamath National Forest, said Wednesday that six fires were ignited by lightning either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning in northeastern Siskiyou County.

The largest of those six fires was about a quarter-acre, she said, adding that they were burning in the Goosenest Ranger District area.

That area is California’s only national grassland area, she said, adding that firefighters were trying to put the fires out.

There were 1,200 lightning strikes in Northern California, with the bulk coming between 2 and 4 a.m., said John Snook, a predictive services manager with the U.S. Forest Service at the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Redding.

His center, an interagency office that coordinates wildfire fighting in Northern California, defines Northern California as that area north of a line drawn between Monterey Bay and Lake Tahoe.

The June 21 thunderstorm that sparked hundreds of fires in California saw more than 8,000 lightning strikes.

With the National Weather Service forecasting a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday night, weary and nervous firefighters were still on guard for the possibility of even more lightning strikes.

Meanwhile, firefighters stunned by Tuesday night’s helicopter crash that claimed the lives of a presumed nine firefighters battling the Buckhorn Fire in Trinity County continued Wednesday to gain ground on blazes burning there.

Here is a roundup of fires still burning in the north state:

Iron Complex: The complex remained at 79 percent containment Wednesday and had burned about 87,306 acres near Junction City in Trinity County. The Buckhorn Fire was at approximately 15,848 acres and 25 percent contained, while the Carey Fire was about 2,409 acres and 40 percent contained. Full containment is expected on Sept. 1.

Lime Complex: The Lime Complex near Hayfork remained at 63,263 acres with 95 percent containment Wednesday evening. The Miners Fire was listed at 24,368 acres and was 95 percent contained, and the Lime Fire was at 23,763 acres and was 85 percent contained. Full containment is expected on Aug. 15.

Yolla Bolly Complex: This series of fires, burning in rough terrain about 20 miles west of Paskenta, had burned 81,094 acres and was 70 percent contained Wednesday. About 30,000 of those acres have burned in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Forest Service officials said. The Grouse Fire was at 3,820 acres with 25 percent containment; the Yellow Fire was 29,767 acres and was 65 percent contained; and the Vinegar Fire was at 43,821 acres and was 65 percent contained. Full containment is expected on Aug. 15.

Siskiyou Complex: Fires southwest of Happy Camp had scorched 58,335 acres and were 63 percent contained Wednesday.

Bear Wallow Complex: Two fires in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness near Etna had burned 13,273 acres and were 33 percent contained Wednesday. The Caribou Fire had scorched 11,625 acres and was 44 percent contained, while the Anthony Milne Fire was at 1,648 acres and zero percent contained. A 16-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail north of the Etna Summit remained closed Wednesday. The Trinity Alps Wilderness north of Caribou Lakes also is closed. A community meeting on the fires is planned for 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Cecilville at the Cecilville Community Hall.

Blue 2 Complex: These fires burning west of the Siskiyou Complex, 13 miles east of Klamath, had burned 7,718 acres and were 63 percent contained Wednesday.

Ukonom Complex: Burning five miles north of Somes Bar, these fires had scorched 44,475 acres and were 76 percent contained.

Panther Fire: This fire 15 miles south of Happy Camp had burned 11,022 acres and was 10 percent contained.

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