Sequoia National Forest closed due to Erskine Fire

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The National park Service has issued Sequoia National Forest Fire Closure No. 16-11 for the Erskine Fire area. In effect visitors will not be allowed into the national forest until the Erskine Fire is no longer a threat.

The Pacific Crest Trail is also closed, from Walker Basin Campground to Jawbone Canyon Road.

At least 150 homes have been destroyed and 75 other damaged in this fire that has now consumed more than 35,000 acres. According to the latest report from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. forest Service (USFS) and Kern County, the “[Erskine] Fire exhibits extreme wind driven and uphill runs. Strong wind, light flashy fuels, and steep topography combined to produce extreme fire behavior when in alignment.”

“Giants in the Mist” Long Meadow Grove, Sequoia National Forest (Wikipedia)
“Giants in the Mist” Long Meadow Grove, Sequoia National Forest (Wikipedia)

They also said that because of successful suppression efforts by the firefighter the north and west boundaries of the fire are not expected to expand at this time. But for the south and east sides of the fire, “There is significant potential for fire spread on the eastern flank when wind and slope are in alignment. The southern portion of the fire is very steep and rugged, making reconnaissance and fire suppression extremely difficult.”

Contributing to the fire’s growth are the extreme heat (93°f at 3:30 p.m.), low humidity (10%) and high winds (wnw at 16 mph).

Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, encompassing 1,864.5 miles of pristine wilderness — old growth forests — featuring Lodgepole Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Red Fir, White Fir, Coast Douglas Fir and Jeffrey Pine.

It also has historic features like the Needles, giant spires above the Kern River and the Giant Sequoia National Monument. It would be an even bigger ecological tragedy if these forests were to be burned.

The fire has already claimed two lives and displaced many more. Evacuation areas include: Hwy 178 to Kelso Valley to Paiute, Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon.

The incident report listed two shelters open by  the American Red Cross of Kern County: St. Jude’s Catholic Church, 86 Nellie Dent Dr., Wofford Heights; and Kernville Elementary School, 13350 Sierra Way, Kernville.

If you’re looking for loved ones affected by the fire, the Red Cross has set up their Safe and Well website HERE.

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UPDATE: June 26 at 2:30 p.m.: The responding authorities have issued their latest report. The Erskine Fire has now consumed 36,810 acres and is 10 percent contained. There are more than 1,700 firefighters battling the blaze. They estimate the fire will be fully contained by Thursday, June 30.

Although the wind has died down, the area is still being hit with extremely high heat and low humidity. The fire also exhibits active backing and creeping; it is moving into the wind at a low and slow intensity.

All the closures and evacuations remain in effect and the two Red Cross shelters are still open. There have been two confirmed fatalities, but authorities add, “Additional fatalities are possible due to the extreme fire behavior during the initial hours of the incident. For additional information contact Kern County Sheriff’s department.”


Top photo courtesy of Cal Fire.