Two unusual weather phenomena combined to create some of the most destructive wildfires the West Coast states have seen in modern times. First was a dramatic lightning storm over Northern and Central California. Thousands of bolts ignited hundreds of fires in parched grasslands and vineyards. Then, warm, dry winds blew toward the West Coast – not the usual direction. One month after the lightning storm set the stage, firefighters are still battling the blazes. At least 34 people have died. About 5,300 square miles have burned this year in California. That’s more than ever before, according to Cal Fire.
All national forest lands are closed, at least through the weekend.
There have been 15 confirmed fatalities resulting from the North Complex of fires in Plumas and Butte Counties. 1,147 residential and commercial structures have been destroyed, mostly in Berry Creek, Feather Falls and other communities northeast of Lake Oroville. The 287,200 acre complex includes the Bear Fire, or “North Complex West Zone”, along with the Sheep and Claremont Fires. Overall containment is estimated at 41%.
The North and South Zones of the August Lightning Complex have merged together near the Mendocino/Trinity County line to form the largest fire in California history. The size now totals a staggering 824,200 acres with 30% overall containment. Many of the islands of unburned areas within the complex have been burned over as the north zone of the fire moves west into Ruth Valley. Trinity County evacuations include Forest Glen, Post Mountain, Trinity Pines, Ruth, Zenia, Kettenpom and Hettenshaw Valley.
The Slater Fire that started last Monday in the Klamath National Forest is being managed along with the Devil’s Fire with a total size of over 153,800 acres. It’s still only 20% contained. All of Happy Camp and surrounding communities are evacuated as hundreds of homes have been lost and at least 2 civilians have died. Part of the Slater Fire is burning in Oregon.
A new fire broke out in the Klamath National Forest on Monday and has burned 1805 acres. The Fox Fire is burning in a remote area of the Trinity Alps Wilderness near Slide Creek southwest of Callahan. There is no containment.
The Red Salmon Complex, been burning since July 27th in the Trinity Alps Wilderness about 8 miles northeast of Willow Creek, has burned 99,300 acres, prompting evacuation orders. Containment is estimated at 17%. The fire is being fought by Forest Service crews, along with the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the Yurok Tribe and the Karuk Tribe. Evacuation orders have been issued for an area from Butler Flat to 10 miles east of Forks of Salmon and south to Plummer Creek.