King Runs the Rubicon – Fire Dwarfs the historic Cleveland fire! Firefighters stumping King fire progress near Stumpy Meadows.
Current Situation: The King Fire is burning in steep terrain in the South Fork of the American River Canyon and Silver Creek Canyon, north of the community of Pollock Pines. Yesterday afternoon’s fire behavior became extreme with crown runs and long range spotting resulting in the fire making a significant run to the northwest towards Quintette, Volcanoville, and Stumpy Meadows Reservoir. Field observations, and Infrared imagery it was determined that the fire made a run of over ten miles to the north between the hours of 1600 and 0600. Spot fires were observed up to three miles ahead of the main fire front.
It was grim afternoon for firefighters as this message was received from the field, just before 3:00PM Wednesday: “I was just at North Canyon. Western front of the fire is now 1.5 miles up canyon from Slab Creek Res. Cal Fire has a crew of 40 creating a fire break up both sides of the canyon just below the dam….nothing but the sound of chain saws in the air. Flames are visible now from North Canyon in Camino (1.5 miles east) as the fire has crested the ridge of the canyon on the west flank.”
Wednesday started out rough for fire fighters as the fire did not take a rest on Tuesday night and low humidity, winds, and steep terrain had allowed the fire to grow 50% larger over the nighttime hours. By morning the fire was listed at 27,000 acres and officials reported:
Humidity recovery was poor last night throughout the fire area. Therefore the fire remained active throughout the night and today, becoming extreme this afternoon. The Infrared data this morning showed significant movement overnight towards the north in the areas of Brush Creek, Lookout Mountain, and Jaybird Canyon.
This report understated the urgency in two areas.
A tremendous fight was being made to stop the fire from crossing Highway 50 and opening a new front in the timber rich area near Sly Park and Jenkinson Reservoir. That fight had been successful the prior day but the fire was unrelenting causing more Highway closures as the battle line was the highway’s apron and burning and burnt trees were falling into the roadway. Although the highway makes a great fire break, the intensity of the giant inferno made the defense of the south county a battle royal with fire fighters giving it everything they had.
The fight to save Camino and Pollock Pines had been won and many evacuations were lifted, but up on the divide, things turned nasty.
The fire had exhausted most fuels around Pollock Pines and was contained at the southern side by the highway, but it was growing fast towards the North. Parts pushed up steep canyons and caused great concern for those in the Swansboro areas. Seeing the treat fire officials evacuated the area and began moving in tons and tons of fire fighting equipment and more than a 1,000 firefighters on the ground. They had some success holding the fire back on Tuesday but most success was given back before noon on Wednesday.
Swansboro is remote, but behind it is some of the most remote areas in the county including the communities of Quintette, Volcanoville, and towards the Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, the water storage for Divide water customers. As firefighters had success limiting the fire’s growth to the south, west, and east, the fire ran out to the isolated areas of north county. On the north-west side is Swansboro. Fire fighting efforts stopped the fire from crossing a key ridge and entering the main developments of Swansboro, but further up Mosquito road, the fight was not so successful.
(Click on Picture to see Video)
High winds had driven the fire past defensive lines and soon invaded the Stumpy Meadows valley with numerous spot fires. Video of the forest across the Stumpy reservoir was distressing for many backcountry enthusiast to watch. Although it was reported that a “family has confirmed the loss of home and their animals”, the success of firefighters to save real property has been most notable. But for all of its problems, the Divide communities were doing well compared to the fire’s advance further north.
This part of the county is known for its famous Rubicon Trail going from the Divide to Tahoe with many historic places like Uncle Toms Cabin built about 150 years ago. In about 18 hours the fire advanced miles north riding the winds to start many spot fires well over any fire defense lines.
Today will see continued efforts to save real property to the south and west, but we will see intense efforts to curb the fire’s advance into the Rubicon valley and Placer county. The fire traveled so fast, and so far north, that it more than doubled its size, mostly in the north.
As things begin to return to normal around Pollock Pines, the people on the eastern Divide and in the Rubicon areas are in for a very long and worrisome day.
Last night a report summed up today’s prospects:
“A very active day.” Fire activity started early and kept up all day largely because of low overnight humidity and gusty winds.
Firefighters made very good progress on the south side, but the fire grew significantly in other places so we are still at 5% containment. Many more firefighting resources arrived for a total of 3,367 personnel.
As the fire grows it breaks a depressing record to become the largest fire in county history. Prior to the King Fire, the Cleveland fire was our local boogieman when we talked about fires. Both Fred fire and Angora fire are also burned into our collective memories and the Sands fire so recent we can still smell the embers, but Cleveland was always the Big Dog by which we judged all others. Now the King Fire has Taken that crown as the largest fire. We can only wonder how much more this monster of a fire will consume before it is brought under control.
King Fire = 71,000 acres and growing (Yesterday it was 27,930acres)
Cleveland fire = 22,000 acres
Freds fire= 7,500 acres
Sand fire = 4,000 acres
Angora fire = 3.100 acres
Last night, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an emergency proclamation for El Dorado and Siskiyou counties due to the effects of the King and Boles fires, which have burned thousands of acres, destroyed homes and other structures and damaged critical infrastructure.
As of last night, 2,007 single residences and 1,505 other minor structures threatened.
Officials added this to today’s notes: “An upper los is expected to move overhead through the area on Thursday bringing a chance of thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday.”
In a final punctuation to the fire’s size, a satellite picture was distributed yesterday that showed the fire from space, and you could see the blackened area chard by King’s flames, even from space!