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Thomas Fire Set to Become Largest in CA History

UPDATE 01/03/18 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 92% contained at 281,893 acres.

Thomas Fire Summary

The Thomas Fire began in Ventura County just north of Santa Paula around 630pm on Monday December 4th. Under Red Flag and Santa Ana Conditions the fire quickly made a push along Hwy 150 to the south and parallel to Hwy126 to the west threatening Santa Paula and Ventura the first night. The fire continued its push west, crossing Hwy 33 and reaching the ocean at Hwy 101 shortly after. Over the course of the next week the fire slowly boxed in Ojai, eventually surrounding it, and pushed its way further west towards the Santa Barbara County line. By this time, the majority of the 1,330 structures impacted already had been. A few days later, the fire used a new round of overnight wind gusts to make a big run on the morning of Sunday Dec 9th, establishing itself above Carpinteria and Montecito. The following Saturday another round of morning winds forced the fire down into the fringe of Montecito, forcing a wall of engines into a several hour battle to push stall its progress. Luckily, by this time over 8,000 firefighters were assigned to the fire, and up to the task of suppression the big morning run. Thanks to their efforts, of the reported 1,300 homes threatened on Dec 16th, only 15 or so were impacted.

thomas progression

Thomas Fire’s progression from Dec 4th (green) through Dec 22nd (red)

Since that push, the fire’s progress has stalled and containment has increased to 65%. Still over the last 17 days, the fire is only 500 acres shy of topping the Cedar Fire for largest in California history. A burn operation is expected to add the acres needed with a few thousand more before all is said and done. Luckily, the firefighters necessary to see the fire out have been halved since the peak last week, but the suppression costs could eclipse last summer’s costly Soberanes fire in well short of the time. The full containment of the historic fire is not expected until after 2018 has begun.

Thomas Fire Major Developments:

  • Yesterday’s wind event produced 50 mph gusts, but fire activity remained minimal.
  • The firing operation was stalled yesterday due to high humidity and some snowfall. It was able to continue in the afternoon, and further firing is planned today for the Rose Valley area.
  • The fire area effectively endured two straight weeks of high to extreme fire weather conditions. Over that period, RH dropped as low as 3-5% and wind speeds were recorded over 60mph.
  • The fire is 500+ acres shy of passing 2003’s Cedar Fire for largest (in terms of acreage burned) in recorded California history.
  • Total fire suppression costs have ballooned to $170 million in just 17 days. It took last year’s Soberanes Fire twelve weeks to cost its total of $236 million.
top ten acres burned

Thomas Fire is 2nd all time in California’s history for acreage burned, but not for long.

Thomas Fire Facts:

  • Location: Fillmore all the way to Santa Barbara, both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
  • Size: 272,800 acres (as of 1/3/18 – 281,893)
  • Containment: 65% (as of 1/3/18 – 92%)
  • Fire Behavior: Light fire behavior with interior burning on the northern portions of the fire
  • 1,063 structures have been destroyed and 267 more have been damaged.
  • 18,000 Structures remain threatened.
  • All Mandatory Evacuations have been lifted.
top four ca fires

California’s four largest fires in history (update 01/03/18 : Thomas is now number 1)

Sources:

NIFC.GOV

CalFire Incident Page

Inciweb

Wikipedia – List of California Wildfires

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

Book Review: “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America”

In The Big Burn, author Timothy Egan takes the reader through the beginning years of environmentalist and activist John Muir’s growing friendship with then Governor Teddy Roosevelt. The book builds by highlighting their growing, shared desire to preserve the frontier and forestlands of the West. During Roosevelt’s presidency, he leaned heavily on forester and politician Gifford Pinchot to manage and develop the nationally protected forestry lands. Pinchot, in turn, formed the US Forest Service, as we know it today. Egan provides in-depth historical accounts of the politics involved in the establishment of the protected areas and the fight against unregulated land clearing by logging companies.

 

President Teddy Roosevelt & Naturalist John Muir in 1903, Yosemite, CA.

President Teddy Roosevelt & Naturalist John Muir in 1903, Yosemite, CA.

As the story leads in to 1910, Egan sets the stage by depicting a newly established forestry service still developing its forestry management plan. Many areas had no trained or allocated firefighting groups. With little-to-no fire crew system in place, Egan tells how forest rangers would have to staff their crews with any able-bodied men in town when the need arose, oftentimes from the nearby saloon. The whole situation becomes harrowing when one day in late August, a wildfire began burning out of control in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. In response, a ranger named Ed Pulaski, was sent with a 45 man crew to work a part of the fire and ended up forced to find shelter in a nearby mine. Pulaski knew the area, was familiar with fire behavior, and was determined to save his men, even giving up his horse to an older fire fighter so the man could keep up with the crew. Pulaski kept his men sheltered in the mining tunnel overnight until the fire passed, keeping some of the panicked men inside the tunnel by force at gunpoint. The next day, he famously led them out of the forest into the nearby town to the hospital. Included in Egan’s relating of the Big Burn, as it came to be called, are many first-hand accounts and photos that pull the reader even closer into the events that occurred in the Coeur d’Alene area. The August 1910 fire across portions of Idaho, Montana, and Washington burned approximately 3 million acres of logging and mining land – nearly the size of Connecticut.

Image of mining tunnel where Pulaski and his crew stayed overnight - now called the Pulaski Tunnel

Mining tunnel where Pulaski and his crew stayed overnight – now called the Pulaski Tunnel

This book is recommended for readers interested in the historical account of the Big Burn and the inspiration for the development of the US Forestry Service and National Park Service. It is easily readable and engaging while giving an incredibly detailed and laid out history of the events surrounding this fire. Readers familiar with the wildland fire fighting world may know Pulaski’s name from the Pulaski tool credited to him (and likely created after this incident due to the need shown for better firefighting tools) that is a national standard.

For more information:

Aerial photo over Kynsna area (Source: South African Red Cross)

Wildfires Rage Across South Africa’s Cape After Massive Winter Storm

Hundreds are left homeless and thousands remain evacuated after the strongest winter storm in decades assaulted Cape Town, South Africa, and continued across the southern region of South Africa known as the Western Cape. Numerous lightning strikes associated with the massive storm ignited wildfires that raged across hillsides, fueled by gusting and strong winds, even as nearby areas began to flood and were drenched by rain. Tuesday evening, June 6th, the storm began to impact the Western Cape. By Wednesday, thousands of residents along the major roadway N2, famously known as the “Garden Route”, were evacuated as wildfires blazed toward nearby neighborhoods. As of June 8th, 4pm PDT, nine deaths are attributed to the storm, home collapses, and wildfires.

Storm Impact & Wildfires in Area around Cape Town and Knysna (Source: Google Earth)

Storm & Wildfire Impacted Area around Cape Town and Knysna (Source: Google Earth)

Current Situation

The local media is referring to this as the “mother of all storms”. A compounding factor to the devastating impact to the region is the already poor housing covering much of the area. Shanty towns burn quickly and can also collapse simply due to the strength of the winds. Flood waters also washed away several communities due to non-permanent construction. Part of the evacuation process included a local hospital in Knysna had to move all personnel and patients due to the approaching wildfires. The rain now falling on the Knysna area will assist firefighting efforts to get the wildfires under control; however, the additional rains will increase the possibilities for mudslides in the area.

Activity of Wildfires in last 48 hours, centered on Knysna (Source: Advanced Fire Information System Viewer – AFIS)

Wildfire activity in last 48 hours, centered on Knysna (Source: Advanced Fire Information System Viewer – AFIS)

Recovery & Outlook

So far, reports indicate more than 150 structures were destroyed throughout 20 suburbs. Cape Town, fortunately, has restored approximately 90% of its power. Across the impacted area, staff are opening shelters and resource centers to assist those displaced. The rains received may help with a fraction of the drought situation, but Level 3 water restrictions remain in place. Wetting rains over a longer duration are needed to truly have an impact. Local volunteers are collecting donations of items such as food, water, blankets, and other basic necessities for those affected by this disaster.

Aerial photo over Kynsna area of wildfires (Source: South African Red Cross)

Aerial photo over Kynsna area (Source: South African Red Cross)

Read further

Live update stream: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/live-knysna-evacuation-underway-20170607

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-40199270

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/powerful-winter-storm-kills-at-least-eight-in-cape-town/70001884

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/08/world/south-africa-fires/

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/storm-kills-displaces-thousands-cape-town-170608052748704.html

Moreno Valley Fire

Opera Fire Scorches 1300 Acres in Southern California

Opera Fire

Southern California’s first large wildfire of the season kicked off on Sunday afternoon (4/30) near the town of Highgrove in Riverside County. The Opera Fire quickly grew to 30 acres before the first responding fire units arrived on scene. The dry, grassy fuels burned rapidly, driven by gusty afternoon winds. Soon after helicopters arrived to assist, drones were spotted in the area, forcing the helicopters to land. Unfortunately, the lack of support from aircraft allowed the fire to quickly grow to 300 acres.

By 7:00 PM PST, the fire was at 1200 acres and threatening 40 homes. 230 firefighters from 8 crews battled throughout the night, mitigated the structure threat, and gained 60% containment by early Monday morning. 75 firefighters from four crews finished the mop-up operations, and fortunately no flare-ups were reported. By 7:30 AM on Tuesday (5/2), the fire was mapped at 1,350 acres and listed as fully contained.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown and under investigation.

More to Come

Small fires broke out all across Southern California over the past weekend. This might be a precursor of what to expect for this coming fire season. The wet winter helped much of California recover from the years-long drought, but also led to a huge spring growth of fine fuels. As these fuels dry out in the summer heat, explosive fire behavior is possible.

 

Opera Fire

Opera Fire Quick Stats

Fire Facts and Resources

  • As of: May 2nd, 2017
  • Location: Highgrove, Riverside County, CA
  • Size: 1,350 acres
  • Containment: 100%
  • Firefighters: 230
  • Helicopters: 3
  • Bulldozers: 2
  • Fire Behavior: Rapid fire spread through light fuels.
  • Structures Threatened: 40 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 0 (reported)
  • Incident Page: www.rvcfire.org
  • News Article: The Press-Enterprise

Gatlinburg Disaster: 700 Structures Lost, 13 Fatalities

Chimney Tops 2 Fire Update

Tough questions were abundant at this morning’s press conference as word fell that a thirteenth victim has been identified in the aftermath of this week’s Chimney Tops 2 fire. Fire and Emergency managers tried to dodge the press’s questions regarding whether they waited too long to evacuate residents in the Gatlinburg and surrounding areas, and whether lives were lost because of it. The truth of the situation is this fire was an anomaly. It was a first of its kind for its fire regime.

The fire creeped around in rocky areas of the steep mountains, south of Gatlinburg, for a few days and warranted fire crews to manage it with an aerial attack. An extreme wind event fanned the fire, knocked down power lines, and created ember starts and abundant spot fires equaling utter chaos. Unfortunately, it appears that with power outages and cell service down, emergency notifications were not received by all residents with disastrous implications. Door to door evacuations by the local authorities couldn’t cover the vast areas in impending danger. The rapidly spread ignited leaf litter and ground fuels from wind gusts reported as high as 87 mph, fueled by prolonged drought, (not surprisingly) from house to house.

The Southern Area Red Team in charge of the damage assessment has updated the Incident Page stating, “There have been a number of confirmed fatalities (13 reported as of this morning) and over 700 confirmed structures lost. This fire hit the communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and surrounding areas adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park hard as they were preparing for both Christmas and the final few weeks of a bustling tourist season.” It was truly a disaster never before seen by this part of the country and only rarely seen nationwide.

Map of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire and surrounding spot fires in Sevier County, TN


Chimney Tops 2 Fire Outlook

Southern Area Red Team type-1 incident management team has command of the fire and has been focused on public safety, infrastructure, and assessing damages. The fire has not spread since early in the week after the incident area received precipitation with frontal passage Wednesday. Minimal fire behavior and smoldering is expected for the three day fire forecast.  Weather-wise, a ridge of high pressure will produce dry conditions in the fire area through Saturday before wetting rains are forecast to return late in the weekend.

14,000 people remain displaced by the fires, with almost 4000 residents still without power. Some business owners and evacuees have been escorted back into some areas but most remain under mandatory evacuation for now. Three Red Cross Shelters remain active in the area with 219 people still utilizing them. Red Cross has delivered over 10,000 meals this week in Sevier County according to their website. We’re happy to report that the organization has also received hundreds of thousands in relief donations.


Chimney Tops 2 Fire Facts
  • As of: December 2nd, 2016
  • Location: Sevier County, TN
  • Size: 17,859
  • Containment: 0%
  • Fire Behavior: Minimal fire spread and smoldering.
  • Structures Impacted: 1000 (Estimated)
  • Structures Destroyed: 700 (confirmed but expected to rise)
  • Evacuations: Are in place, 14,000 residents and visitors impacted
  • Fatalities: 13
  • Incident Page: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5112/

 

Fifty Year Anniversary of Loop Fire Tragedy

Loop Fire Recap

This week marks the anniversary of another infamous fire disaster. Two winters of below average rainfall, fuel moistures at critical levels, and multiple months of Santa Ana events lead to a historically unique Southern California autumn in 1966.  A faulty power line sparked a fire before dawn on November 1, 1966 near Slymar, CA in Los Angeles County (near 2016’s Sand Fire).  Abundant Santa Ana winds quickly drove the blaze to 2,000 acres around the steep terrain of Loop Canyon in the Angeles National Forest.  This past Tuesday saw the fifty year anniversary of the Loop Fire tragedy.

While the fire was seemingly under control, two crews entered steep terrain to help further contain the blaze and were surprised by an unexpected rapid flare up and chimney effect with little time for escape. A dozen hotshots of the 31-member crew perished that day. In remembrance, the Angeles National Forest (ANF) and the Cleveland National Forest (CNF) held a commemorative ceremony this week at the El Cariso Regional Park. Hundreds of firefighters were in attendance to remember the fallen. Several survivors spoke to an emotional and somber crowd, according to accounts from the event.

Tragedy in 60 Seconds

According to official reports conducted after the Loop Fire, at the time of the accident the fire was essentially out. It had burned for two thousand acres under the influence of Santa Ana winds, which had become significantly lighter by 2 pm when the El Cariso crew began working the fire. Rich Leak, a surviving crew member described their assignment as “to cold trail the fire’s edge down the ridge line and tie into the County Crews at the bottom.” According to Leak, little fire activity was observed in the area as it appeared there were no active flames on the ridge line they would be working.  He even stated that their main concern while working on the steep mountainside was danger from rocks and rockslides rather than the fire itself.

In attempting to construct a fire line, the crew reached a point on the ridge where following the fire’s edge became unsafe and almost impossible in the steep terrain. Their crew boss “made the decision to cut an indirect line and tie into the dozer line at a different location.” As they moved into this secondary location, “a spot fire started in the ravine below us and all hell broke loose.” Leak eerily likened the moments that followed to being on a charcoal grill, with lighter fluid igniting at once with a “whoosh”, and fast moving shockwave-like flames ensuing.

The official investigation concluded that the crew experienced 30-60 seconds of 2500 degree heat without fire shelters or proper PPE (fire resistant clothing). Ten members of the crew lost their lives in those 60 seconds and two more died later in the hospital due to the burnover. Fifteen of the 19 surviving crew members were also injured by the flash of flames.

The Loop Fire memorial marker in El Cariso Park in Sylmar, CA. (Photo Credit: Stuart Palley)

The Loop Fire memorial marker in El Cariso Park in Sylmar, CA. (Photo Credit: Stuart Palley)

Lessons Learned

In firefighting, sometimes lessons are learned in harsh ways. The explosive Loop Fire accident has led to a clearer understanding of the perils posed by narrow and steep canyons, and how with the slightest change in weather, such canyons can have dangerous chimney-like effects on fire behavior. The official disaster report from the Loop Fire suggested changes in safety protocols still used today when fighting fires in such terrain:

  • Require the use of lookouts and open communication lines (radios).
  • Provide a checklist for downhill line operations.
  • Make “crystal clear” the dangers of working in box canyons and potential chimney fire situations.
  • Standardize equipping all crew members on the fire line with lightweight safety gear and fire protective shelters.

In the wake of the fire, great attention was paid by the wildfire community to the study of fire behavior and methods to predict when and where fire behavior will change rapidly.


Source(s):

Pasadena Star News

WLF Always Remember

Colorado Fire Camp

Personal account from Captain Rich Leak

Wildfire Today

Ten of Our Favorite Wildfire Videos

Following our blog post on how the story of the Esperanza Fire west of Palm Springs is being made into a feature film, we thought we’d point you to ten of our favorite wildfire videos and documentaries from the past few years. Like many wildfire experts, our favorite videos include exciting footage from the fire line showing not only the true power, danger, and humbling awesomeness of a wildfire, but also the courage and skill displayed by the men and women who fight it.

We’re fascinated by time-lapse videos as they showcase fires moving and large smoke columns building. We also enjoy some of the great documentaries made in recent years, many of which cover topics ranging from the history of fighting fires to profiles of the brave wildland crews who work tirelessly to protect life and property. We’re also advocates of a series of excellent informational videos on fire science and defensible space created by Jack Cohen, one of the preeminent researchers in the wildfire industry.


Footage from the front lines

Rim Fire Flight

Amazing lead plane flight along the uncontrolled head of the Rim Fire in the Yosemite area.

 

Geronimo Hot Shots

Awesome GoPro footage of hand crews in the field. 

The Atlantic’ Documentary on them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=106tOoXVsxQ

 

Erskine Damage Drone Footage

Terrible devastation this summer in the Lake Isabella are in Kern County where 309 structures were burned. 

 

Fort McMurray Fire Escape

The video shows residents fleeing the Fort McMurray Fire early in May. The fire burned almost 1.5 million acres and destroyed 2,400 structures.


Time-Lapse Videos

Waldo Fire (Colorado Springs, CO 2012)

 

Pyrocumulous Rey Fire (Santa Barbara County, CA 2016)

 

Soberanes Fire (Big Sur, CA 2016)


Wildfire History

The Big Burn

At a runtime of 45 minutes, this documentary on the major fires of 1910 in Montana highlights the start of the United States Forest Service and wildland firefighting as we know them today. 


Fire Science

Radiant Heat vs. Firebrands

 

Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire

 

Ten Year Anniversary of Esperanza Fire Tragedy

Esperanza Fire Recap

This week marks ten years since the tragic Esperanza Fire in California’s Riverside County. The fire started at the base of Cabazon Hill west of Palm Springs around 1:11 a.m. on October 26th, 2006. Moderate Santa Ana conditions quickly pushed the fire uphill and to the west prompting a large mutual aid response. Five United States Forest Service (USFS) Engines (including Engine 57) were some of the first to respond from the San Jacinto Ranger District and were quickly assigned to structure protection in the rural mountain community of Twin Pines.  At approximately 7:15 a.m., five wildland firefighters from USFS Engine 57 were overrun by the fire protecting an isolated, vacant residential structure.

EsperanzaPhoto

Tragedy in Twin Pines

At the time of the accident, the fire was several hundred acres in size and burning rapidly in critically dry fuel, under the influence of Santa Ana winds. A Red Flag Warning was in place for the area, issued twenty hours prior to the accident. A March 2006 Wildfire Protection Plan rated the Twin Pines community’s Fire Threat as Extreme to Very High. Additionally, the “Octagon” house they were protecting was located at the head of a steep drainage and, according to a 2002 study, was given a defensibility rating as “non-defensible”.

Officials later determined that the combination of wind alignment, fuel susceptibility, topography of the steep drainage below the firefighters’ location, and a thermal uplifting at daybreak caused a sudden and intense fire run. Many contributing factors led to their demise, but ultimately the five firefighters were surrounded by fire incredibly quickly, without time for escape, and were fatally burned by it. The Esperanza Fire totaled 40,200 acres and 34 residences burned, continuing for another few days after that fateful morning.

Accident Aftermath

In the wake of the accident, a few investigations ensued, aiming to determine the causal and contributing factors as well as the criminal intent of the fire’s origin itself. A full investigation of the burnover found two main causal factors:

  1. There was a loss of situational awareness concerning the dangers associated with potential fire behavior and fire environment while in a complex wildland urban interface situation.
  2. The decision by command officers and engine supervisors to attempt structure protection at the head of a rapidly developing fire either underestimated, accepted, and/or misjudged the risk to firefighter safety.

Arson investigators found the fire’s ignition was an act of arson by a Raymond Lee Oyler, a nearby Beaumont resident and serial arsonist. The individual “was convicted March 6 (2009) of five counts of first-degree murder, 20 counts of arson and 17 counts of using an incendiary device. A jury called for the death penalty.” This was the first and only time an arsonist has been convicted of first degree murder.

Ten days after the event, a public memorial service was held in Devore, CA for the five firefighters lost. Subsequently, California Highway 243 through the Cabazon Hills was named a memorial highway in honor of the fallen firefighters. The site of the accident will remain unoccupied and serve as a permanent remembrance memorial. A book was written by John McClean outlining the events of the Esperanza fire tragedy (as well as other fires). The critically-acclaimed book has been picked up by Legendary Pictures for adaptation for a future film.

Memorial Plaque at the site of the Esperanza Fire accident

Memorial Plaque at the site of the accident


Source(s):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanza_Fire

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/06/local/me-oyler6

http://www.coloradofirecamp.com/esperanza/narrative.htm

http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/downloads/esperanza_00_complete_final_draft_05_01_2007.pdf

Twelve Weeks Later: Soberanes Fire 100% Contained

Soberanes Fire Recap

The Soberanes Fire in northern California has finally wound down, with officials marking the blaze at 100% contained as of Wednesday evening (10/12).  The fire ignited from an illegal campfire on July 22nd–a full twelve weeks ago–and in the first week, destroyed 57 residences and 11 outbuildings.  Luckily, no other losses have been reported since then.


How Soberanes Compares to Other Fires

The progress of the fire has been mostly stalled for weeks, with fire crews focusing on building containment lines in the troublesome and rugged terrain of the Ventana Wilderness (LPF).  Subsequently, the fire perimeter and acreage has not budged much since late September.  Collectively, the fire has topped a record $250m in suppression costs, dwarfing the previous high from 2002 of $165m (Biscuit Fire). The Soberanes Fire finished its run at 132,127 acres which is good for 17th place in California’s documented history and 6th largest ever in the Los Padres National Forest. The sheer size of the wildfire is apparent in comparison to both the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.

Soberanes Fire size comparison with SF and NYC

Soberanes Fire size comparison with NYC and SF


Soberanes Fire Facts (10/14)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Contained: Oct 12th, 2016 (83 days)
  • Location:  Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 132,127 acres
    • 94,933 acres CA-LPF – 72%
    • 37,194 acres CALFIRE BEU – 28%
  • Containment: 100%
  • Fire Behavior: Interior smoldering with sporadic smoke possible.
  • Structures Threatened: 0
  • Structures Destroyed: 68 (57 primary, 11 outbuildings)
  • Cost to Date: $249.9+ million
  • Incident Page: Inciweb
  • News Article: KSBW News


IMT Assignments

Since the blaze began, seven different incident management teams have been assigned to the storied fire (see list below). California’s IMT2 (Mills) team is expected to see out the remaining 21% of suppression repair and continue to BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) operations.  The full list of IMTs assigned to Soberanes:

  • CAL FIRE Team 4 IC (Derum) taking command on 07/23/2016 at 1200
  • CAL FIRE IMT (Derum) in unified command with CA IMT1 (von Tillow) on 08/05/2016
  • CA IMT1 (von Tillow) in unified command with CAL FIRE IMT (King BEU) 08/19/2016 at 0600
  • CA IMT1 (von Tillow) transferred command to AK IMT1 (Kurth) @ 0700 8/24/2016, No more unified command
  • CA IMT1 (Opliger) will transition on 09/13/2016 at 0600
  • CA IMT2 (Arroyo) assumed command of incident 09/29/2016 at 0800
  • CA IMT2 (Mills) will assume command 10/13/2016 at 0600

Sources:

Inciweb

NIFC

KSBW News

Soberanes Fire over 100,000 acres, costs crest $200 million

Soberanes Fire Summary

The Soberanes Fire is eight weeks old today, starting way back on July 22nd. We have been closely monitoring the blaze as it has burned most of the summer. This month, the fire has well surpassed 100,000 acres and is still only 57% contained. Early on, the fire destroyed 57 residences and 11 outbuildings in Palo Colorado Canyon. Currently, there are more than 1,437 firefighters on scene fighting the blaze which is primarily in the rugged Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest (LPF). 410 structures remain threatened with evacuation warnings in effect. Full containment is not expected until September 30th. A few highlights on the fire are seen in the eight-week timeline below.

Picture2

Soberanes Fire has been burning for eight weeks and counting


Soberanes Fire Outlook

The fire has been predominantly growing south and east in the Ventana Wilderness of the LPF for the last couple weeks. Due to good work by crews and holding containment lines the fire has stayed east of Big Sur and west of Carmel Valley Road. Yet firing operations on the east side of the fire remain the main objective of late, as fire crews try to further increase containment by connecting indirect line near Chew’s Ridge in Divisions J, K, and L to the completed line north of the Los Padres Dam.  Consequently, a successful effort in the coming days will add both acreage and containment in those divisions. Furthermore, air attack activity will pick up as their resources will assist in keeping fuels adjacent to the indirect fire line from igniting.   Meanwhile, on the southern, coastal side of the fire, crews continue to work hard securing and improving the established containment lines. They have been successful holding the fire east of an established dozer line on the ridge above Big Sur.

Next week, the Soberanes fire will reach its ninth week (and on the 23rd, enter its third month). The fire has burned 65% on federal lands and 35% on state lands. Suppression costs for the entirety have soared to over $200 million with an average of $3.58 million spent each day. If the fire were fully contained today, the feds would be on the hook for over $130 million and CALFIRE for the other $70+ million. At that rate, if firefighters were to reach full containment on September 30th, the suppression cost would eclipse $250 million (not including costs from damages incurred). If they can’t connect containment lines in the near future, likely the fire will continue to burn until fall weather, rains, or cooler temperatures stall its activity.

Soberanes Fire near Big Sur, CA is now over 100,000 acres and still growing

Soberanes Fire Progression: Continues burning near Big Sur, CA and is now over 100,000 acres and growing


Soberanes Fire Facts (9/16)

  • Started: July 22nd, 2016
  • Location: Ventana Wilderness, Big Sur, CA
  • Size: 108,031 acres (70,285 acres CA-LPF; 37,194 acres CALFIRE)
  • Containment: 57%
  • Fire Behavior: Slow fire spread through timber, chaparral, and tall grass in steep, rugged terrain.
  • Structures Threatened: 410 (reported)
  • Structures Destroyed: 68 (57 primary, 11 outbuildings)
  • Evacuations: Warnings remain in place
  • Cost to Date: $200.4 million
  • Incident Page: Inciweb
  • News Article: Big Sur News

Sources:

  • Big Sur Kate
  • Inciweb
  • NIFC