Dixie Fire am September 4th update: Progress to report this morning
By Michael Condon
Former fire and aviation chief of the Plumas national forest
Special Plumas News
The firefighters are making progress. Weaker than expected winds gave firefighters some breathing space yesterday. The fire spread was less than expected, particularly along the escarpment where the fire behavior was much more moderate than typical for this region. Evacuation orders for the Herlong area have been reduced to an evacuation warning.
A map of the active portion of the Dixie Fire in Plumas County looks like a huge inverted triangle. The legs of the triangle are about 20 miles long in the west, over 30 miles in the east, and the base, at the top of this inverted triangle, is over 40 miles long.
It’s over 90 miles, as the crow flies. If you consider all the ins and outs and the ripples of the edge of a fire, that leaves well over a hundred miles of edge of fire. Most of those fires weren’t here a few days ago.
The western portion of this inverted triangle runs along Grizzly Ridge from Taylorsville to Lake Davis. This leg has a built fire line, extended pipe and held tight.
The longest part of the triangle, the northern part, stretches from the Genesee valley in the east to the edge of the escarpment. Firefighters have a line of fire around the first third of this room and continue to clean it.
The second piece of this north leg runs along the scar of Walker Fire. There isn’t much fuel left after the Walker fire, so there is very little spread or active combustion here. This piece of the fire will likely be left for the snow to go out in a few months.
The third and final piece of the north leg connects the Walker Fire scar to the escarpment. Fire crews built a bulldozer line along this room.
This leaves the southeast leg of the triangle. The portion from Grizzly Ridge, across the north end of Davis Lake and to Turner Ridge and Clover Valley is contained by a line of fire. The firefighters have a lot of fire line cleaning and improvement to do along this room, but the real work is between here and the escarpment.
Late yesterday afternoon the smoke cleared and there was enough wind for the fire to spread south from the Coyote Hills. The fire spread south over Horton Ridge, east of Clover Valley. Crews worked on the construction line overnight around this room, building emergency lines to stop the southward spread and increasing the protection of the structure in the Dixie Valley and Grizzly Ranch Subdivision north of Portola .
At the top of the escarpment, the fire continues to burn east towards the burn scar of Sugar Fire.
The fire burning on the escarpment continues to progress towards Route 395, west of Oliver Lane. Crews and engines must work to build lines of fire on both sides of the escarpment fire to prevent further lateral spread along the escarpment. Bulldozer lines have been built behind the residences along Highway 395 and fire trucks and manual crews are pre-positioned to protect the structure.
A reversal will trap smoke over the area and limit wind speeds for most of the morning. In the afternoon, the inversion will begin to break down. Winds will be light, generally less than 10 miles per hour. Fire behavior analysts predict active fires in the afternoon, but spotting will be limited. Winds will initially emerge from the southeast and move to the southwest by late afternoon. The direction of the fire spread will be influenced more by the characteristics of the terrain and less by the direction of the wind.
Yesterday, the firefighters welcomed more than 200 soldiers who had just completed their fire training. They are waiting for another supplement today. With the incredible number of miles of line of fire to patrol and clear, the military’s help is a huge boost to firefighters. They are not the first soldiers to join the effort. From the very beginning, the military has supported air operations, logistical support, law enforcement and firefighting operations.
Grizzly Fire now covers 885,954 acres. This is an increase of 17,173 acres since yesterday morning. The fire remains contained at 55%.