Buckhorn Fire Chases Out Big Bar Residents

It aint over yet! The wildfires that started June 20th are still burning strong. None are controlled, and most are not even fully contained.

The small Trinity County community of Big Bar, 20 miles west of Weaverville, was under a mandatory evacuation order Saturday after the out-of-control Buckhorn Fire burned close to homes.

Highway 299 was shut down in the area about 6:45 a.m. Saturday because of the encroaching fire and a burnout operation, Iron Complex spokesman Don Ferguson of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest said Saturday.

Highway 299 is expected to remain closed until noon today. There will be one-way controlled traffic when it reopens, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher said.

Ferguson said the highway could very well end up being used as a fire break.

He said the blaze flared up significantly Friday night and early Saturday.

Residents were asked to evacuate to the Veterans Memorial Hall in Weaverville. A pilot car was going to escort them through the closed highway, although a majority of Big Bar residents were staying and watching the flames, Ferguson said.

“People were out there with their coffee cups this morning,” Ferguson said Saturday.

About four residents were at the shelter Friday night and about 10 were there Saturday, Ferguson said. Some of the residents who left their homes also could be staying with friends elsewhere, Ferguson said.

The mandatory evacuation order came after the fire moved to the top of the ridge north of Big Bar on Friday night and began backing down to the residences Saturday morning, an evacuation notice reads. The 26,532-acre fire was listed at 40 percent containment Saturday.

“Defensive firing” was being used to keep the homes safe, the notice reads.

“The firing’s going really well so far,” Ferguson said.

Fire crews have built chicken-wire barriers to keep fire debris from rolling into homes, Ferguson said. Firefighters last week set up water sprinklers and built a fire line for structure protection. One building also had been wrapped with fireresistant material, he said.

About 60 people live in the community near the Trinity River.

However, others in Trinity County will notice the Buckhorn Fire’s spread.

Power from west of Weaverville to Maple Creek was shut off because snags were burning under power lines, Ferguson said.

The evacuation comes less than a day after a fire spokesman on Friday declared that burnouts used to fight the companion Eagle Fire were a success, burning away dangerous brush and other “understory” vegetation. The Eagle Fire was at 31,797 acres with 83 percent containment Saturday.

“People on the south side of the (Trinity) River are feeling pretty happy with the results,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Richard Hadley said Friday. “We’re hoping we can relieve the apprehension of the folks on the north side over the next 48 hours.”

Since a lightning storm in late June ignited hundreds of wildfires in the area, residents have lived under a constant pall of smoke and the fear of evacuation.

Here’s the status of the north state’s fires as of Saturday:

Iron-Alps complexes

Location: Near Junction City.

Cause: Lightning, June 21.

Approximate acres burned: 102,936.

24-hour acreage change: 2,822.

Percent contained: 79.

Expected containment: Sept. 1.

Structures threatened: 477.

Yolla Bolly Complex

Location: 20 miles west of Paskenta.

Cause: Lightning, June 20.

Approximate acres burned: 89,389.

24-hour acreage change: 874.

Percent contained: 95.

Expected containment: Aug. 23.

Structures threatened: None.

Siskiyou Complex and Blue 2 Fire

Location: Southwest of Happy Camp.

Cause: Lightning, June 21.

Approximate acres burned: 74,410.

24-hour acreage change: 972.

Percent contained: 72.

Expected containment: Aug. 30.

Structures threatened: None.

Ukonom Complex

Location: Nearest fire 5 miles north of Somes Bar.

Cause: Lightning, June 21.

Approximate acres burned: 51,017.

24-hour acreage change: 296.

Percent contained: 89.

Expected containment: Sept. 15.

Structures threatened: None.

Bear Wallow Complex

Location: 20 miles west of Paskenta.

Cause: Lightning, June 21.

Approximate acres burned: 14,593.

24-hour acreage change: 2.

Percent contained: 49.

Expected containment: Sept. 15.

Structures threatened: None.

Panther Fire

Location: 15 miles south of Happy Camp.

Cause: Lightning, July 22.

Approximate acres burned: 23,214.

24-hour acreage change: 436.

Percent contained: 50.

Expected containment: Aug. 28.

Structures threatened: None.

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