Shasta/Lassen County Wildfire Update 8-7-09

Officials backed off Thursday on their estimate for containment of a series of lightning-sparked fires that has burned more than 14,000 acres in eastern Shasta County.

A day after saying the SHU (Shasta-Trinity Unit) Lightning Complex could be contained by Saturday, state officials now aren’t saying when the fires will be contained.

Told ya so.

Containment means there’s a line around the fire to the point that it’s not expected to grow any larger.

Meanwhile, a barrage of lightning – some 885 strikes – pounded Northern California on Thursday, creating at least a dozen small fires in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The lightning strikes were recorded in a 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service reported.

Most of the lightning activity was concentrated on the west side of the forest, and eight fires were confirmed from Weaverville to Big Bar.

Firefighters contained five of those fires, with a quarter-acre fire being the largest.

Weather permitting, spotter planes will take surveillance flights this morning to see if more fires turn up, Assistant Fire Management Officer Lance Noxon said.

Elsewhere, the fires around Burney and Cassel began to settle down Thursday as a storm system moved through the area.

“The higher humidities and lower temperatures allowed firefighters to make very good progress on the fires,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Hope Barton said Thursday night.

The windy and overcast conditions grounded air tankers that were battling the blaze, Cal Fire spokesman Dick Goings said early Thursday.

While air tankers weren’t flying the fire line because of the poor visibility, 18 helicopters continued to battle the blazes Thursday.

“Those winds get squirrelly when those thunderstorms come over the variable terrain – the winds go crazy,” Goings said.

The series of 40 fires burning in the Intermountain area grew to 14,454 acres and was 25 percent contained on Thursday, Barton said. Fourteen of the fires have been controlled.

The largest fire in the complex is the Goose, which nearly doubled from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning to 6,000 acres. The Cassel Fire grew to 5,000 acres and the Chalk Fire increased to 2,800 acres, Barton said. The 250-acre Backbone Fire near Ingot has been 100 percent contained, Cal Fire reported. The Goose Fire was 10 percent contained, the Cassel Fire was 50 percent contained and the Chalk Fire was 35 percent contained.

Meanwhile, the 404-acre Gomez Fire near Glenburn is 100 percent contained, and the 50-acre Cave Fire near Fall River Mills also is 100 percent contained.

There have been two minor injuries reported, but no structures have burned. There are no current evacuations in effect for that complex.

Highways 44 and 89 were reopened late Thursday night after being closed intermittently since the fires began, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A fire burning off Backbone Ridge near Jones Valley north of Lake Shasta had burned 250 acres but was 100 percent contained Thursday, Goings said.

Meanwhile, the Hat Creek Complex of fires, including the Sugarloaf and Brown fires, grew to 9,978 acres from Wednesday night to Thursday morning, and was 40 percent contained as of Thursday evening.

Clouds dumped “a good amount of rain” on the fires, U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Richard Hadley said. “That’s helped quite a bit,” he said.

As of Thursday night, the Sugarloaf Fire was at 8,037 acres and 25 percent contained. The Brown Fire was at 1,893 acres and 90 percent contained.

Evacuations continue in Old Station and the Rancheria RV Park.

A combined 3,114 firefighters are battling the two complexes in eastern Shasta and Lassen counties.

Firefighters from across the state and as far south as Los Angeles and Riverside counties have come to the area to help.

Source: Record Searchlight

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