Wildfire updates including Erskine Fire - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Wildfire updates including Erskine Fire

With the Sherpa Fire, Complex Fires and Border Fire burning with various degrees of containment, California had another fire erupt, this one in Kern County near Lake Isabella.

Propane tanks erupting in Erskine fire. (Cal Fire)

Propane tanks erupting in Erskine fire. (Cal Fire)

From the Inciweb report:

The Erskine Fire is burning in the Lake Isabella area of Kern County. The fire is currently estimated at 19,000 acres. Approximately 100 structures have been lost and 1,500 additional structures are threatened. Additional information on structure damage will be posted as damage assessment teams are able to confirm details.

There are currently 350 fire fighters on scene, with several hundred more in route to the fire. Three firefighters have suffered smoke inhalation injuries.

Heat, steep and rugged terrain, wind and a fast moving fire are all challenges facing firefighters. Today there will be 6 airtankers, including a VLAT, and 7 helicopters on the fire. Additional air resources are in route.

Kernville Elementary School is now the primary shelter for evacuees. There are currently approximately 125 evacuees at the elementary school. The Red Cross Safe & Well site is available for those looking for loved ones affected by evacuations: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

Road closures: Hwy 178 is closed at Hwy 155 and Sierra Way.

Structures burning in Erskine Fire (Cal Fire)

Structures burning in Erskine Fire (Cal Fire)

Evacuations: Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon

The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Kern County Fire District are in unified command. Many other agencies are assisting, including Red Cross, Caltrans, animal control, and law enforcement from local, county, state, and federal agencies.

The Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County

There is now a perimeter around 93 percent of the fire, but hotter, drier weather is coming tonight that could stoke the fire again. The Inciweb report:

Sherpa Fire (InciWeb)

Sherpa Fire (InciWeb)

Overall fire behavior has resulted in minimal growth for the past three days which has provided fire fighters the ability to secure 93% of the fire perimeter

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for red flag conditions through 10 AM tomorrow. This will result in increasing temperatures and decreasing humidity, especially in the upper elevation areas. Overnight wind speeds were measured at 40 to 50 miles per hour along the Camino Cielo Ridge. Visit the National Weather Service page for details on the red flag warning.

Completed fire line surrounds 93 % of the fire. The remaining uncontained fire lines are in the northeast portion, where the terrain is too steep and dangerous for crews to work. This area has significant fire retardant lines and will be carefully monitored. Firefighters continue to find and extinguish hot spots in the south and north ends of the fire edge; which are being extinguished. Two helicopters remain available for water dropping as needed to support the crews on the ground, a third is available for reconnaissance and infrared scanning.

Evacuations: While the evacuation orders were lifted for the majority of the fire area; some restrictions and closures remain:

  • El Capitan Canyon will remain closed with a tentative reopening of 6/25/16.
  • Refugio Canyon, the area north of 1800 Refugio Canyon will remain under Mandatory Evacuation, with a tentative reopening of June 25. The road south of the 1800 block (also known as “The Narrows”) will be reduced to a WARNING area, but, closed to non-fire traffic between 7 to 9 a.m. and between 6 to 8 p.m. to allow safe passage of fire-fighting traffic.
  • Refugio State Beach will reopen to the public on Saturday, June 25.

A total of 772 people remain assigned to this incident, including 24 crews, 25 engines, 9 water tenders, and 3 helicopters. Demobilization of excess resources will continue today Management of the fire transfered to a local incident management team at 0600 on 6/24/2016.

San Gabriel Complex Fires

Smoke from the fire visible from the I-10 in El Monte. (Claudia Gestro)

Smoke from the fire visible from the I-10 in El Monte. (Claudia Gestro)

Initially the Reservoir Fire and Fish Fire were reported and handled separately, but they were combined into the San Gabriel Complex Fires a few days ago. At this time they are now 30 percent contained. Also, the Red Flag Warning will be in effect through Saturday.

Here is the Inciweb report:

The San Gabriel Complex consists of 2 fires that started the morning of June 20, the Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire. Combine acreage for the complex is now 5267 acres (1200 acres for the Reservoir Fire and 4067 acres for the Fish Fire). Containment is at 30%. 1256 personnel are currently engaged on these fires to including 117 engines, 28 handcrews, 5 water tenders and 7 bulldozers, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

For today’s perimeter map.
For today’s operations map.
For today’s infrared interpretation.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect from until 6 a.m.Saturday.

Due to the power loss in Azusa Canyon, small water systems in the canyon are under a “Boil Water” order. This order was issued by Los Angeles County Public Health Department as a precautionary measure to ensure that the water distribution systems do not have bacterial contamination. Water need to be boiled for 1 minute at a rolling boil before use. This order will be lifted after water passes two test that show there is no bacterial contamination. This order is applicable to all small water systems in Azusa canyon with the exception of Camp Williams.

Handcrews successfully accessed the fires edge in the steep and rugged terrain above Spinks Canyon Road. Crews were able to build direct fireline and reinforce existing line. Hotshot crews are one of the few fire fighting units capable of this task. By posting lookouts and observing fire behavior, they were able to successfully complete this mission safely. This action provided additional security to the homes in the area. Hotshots bring a high level of fitness and expertise to wildfire management. They are highly mobile and trained to be self-sufficient with their own vehicles and gear and specialized firefighting tools.

On the eastern edge of the Fish Fire, firefighters have continued to make significant progress. Some crews spent the night in place. This is refered to as “spiking out” or “coyote tactics.” These crews are self-sufficient and capable of staying in the field un-supported for up to 3 days. With today’s break in the weather, and utilizing appropriate tactics, firefighters are expected to make additional progress.

Last night firefighters will continued to monitor and hold existing fireline. Throughout the night with wind shifts expected, safety is a primary concern. Structure defense will continue. With cooler temperatures and higher humidity, crews were able to make good progress.

Aircraft dropping retardant onto Reservoir Fire (U.S. Forest Service)

Aircraft dropping retardant onto Reservoir Fire (U.S. Forest Service)

Residence of Mountain Cove, Azusa were escorted in and out of the area in groups of 10 vehicles by the Azusa Police Department pending fire conditions. Residents should wait at Ranch Rd. while awaiting escorts.

Some of residents who live in the Las Lomas area of the city of Duarte were be able return to their homes. This included those who evacuated from the streets of Vineyard Avenue up to Willowglen Drive, Las Lomas Road up to Willowglen Drive, and Woodbluff Avenue to Starpine Drive.

This will be residents with ID only. Deputies will be checking identification to see if people traveling through the area reside in the above listed areas.

Residents in the Las Lomas area in the city of Duarte who live north of Willowglen Drive are still under evacuation.

Residents of the Mesa Area in the city of Duarte are still under evacuation. This includes residents who live on Mount Olive Drive north of Woodlyn Lane, Spinks Canyon, Rim Road, Golden Meadow Drive, and High Mesa Drive.

Deputies will no longer check Identification of those traveling through the Brookridge area. This includes residents who live North of Royal Oaks Drive, East of Green bank Avenue, and West of Encanto Parkway.

Small pets, such as dogs, cats, etc. can return home with you. 

All other evacuations remain in effect.

We still have approximately 69 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel deployed at the fires with 33 deputies securing the evacuated areas.

No livestock, large vehicles, such as RVs, horse trailers or other oversized vehicles will be allowed into the area for at least 24 hours. Fire vehicles will still be in the area. All other evacuations remain in effect.

The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at the Duarte Community Center located at 1600 Huntington Drive, Duarte, CA 91010 or call (626)357-7931. The Red Cross Shelter housed 21 people overnight at their Evacuation Shelter.

Border Fire

Border Fire1In San Diego County, all the evacuation orders have been lifted, but the fire continues to burn. As of 6 a.m. this morning the Border Fire had consumed 7,483acres. It has destroyed five homes and 11 out buildings and damaged one home. At the time of the latest report firefighters had the Border Fire 45 percent contained.

The reported road closures:
Located approximately 1 1⁄2 miles north of Highway 94 on Harris Ranch Road – allowing access to all residential locations on Harris Ranch Road.
Closure: Vollmer Road approximately 1⁄4 mile north of Highway 94 at the Y intersection.
Closure: Martin Road approximately 1⁄4 mile west of Highway 94 at the Y intersection. This closure will allow access to residents on Martin Road.
Cal Fire also reports the section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the burn area has been closed as well.

From Cal Fire’s incident report:

Firefighters were able to construct additional control lines along the fires perimeter today. If the control lines are compromised the fire could potentially threaten the communities of Lake Morena, Campo as well as the outlying recreational assets as the fire continues to move north and northeast. Firefighters continue strengthening and securing containment lines. Portions of Portrero were repopulated yesterday and SDG&E continue to make repairs on many of the downed power lines and the replacement of poles. Residents are asked to listen and follow the direction of the all emergency personnel.

There will be a community meeting tonight at the Los Coches Creek Middle School located at 9669 Dunbar Ln., El Cajon, CA at 7:00 pm
We will continue to provide updates on the fires.

All the agencies suggest you have “go bags” ready in case you get an evacuation order and need to leave quickly.

Consider all fire areas to be no fly zones for all private aircraft, including personal drones.

When drones interfere with firefighting efforts, a wildfire has the potential to grow larger and cause more damage. On the San Gabriel Complex­­, an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect and any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges. Even without a TFR, anyone who hampers firefighting efforts could face charges­­­. For more information on drones the public can visit the FAA’s website at www.KnowBeforeYouFly.org. “If you fly, we can’t!­”

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

UPDATE: 12:45 P.M.: On their Facebook page Kern County Fire Department officials confirmed two people have been killed in the Erskine Fire and the fire has now consumed nearly 20,000 acres. From their latest incident report on Inciweb:

The Erskine Fire is burning in the Lake Isabella area of Kern County. The fire is currently estimated at 19,034 acres. There are currently 600 fire fighters on scene, with several hundred more in route to the fire.

Residents in the Lake Isabella and Erskine Creek area should prepare for possible evacuation. Additional evacuation information will be posted when it is available. Evacuations remain in effect for Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon. Hwy 178 is closed at Hwy 155 and at Sierra Way. Kernville Elementary School is now the primary shelter for evacuees. There are approximately 125 evacuees at the elementary school. The Red Cross Safe & Well site is available for those looking for loved ones affected by evacuations: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

Approximately 100 structures have been lost and 1,500 additional structures are threatened. Additional information on structure damage will be posted as damage assessment teams are able to confirm details.

Heat, steep and rugged terrain, wind and a fast moving fire are all challenges facing firefighters. Today there will be 6 air tankers, including a VLAT, and 7 helicopters on the fire. Additional air resources are in route. Three firefighters have suffered smoke inhalation injuries.

The fire started on BLM managed public lands at the junction of Erskine Creek Rd and Apollo Way at approximately 3:51PM Thursday, June 23d. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Kern County Fire District are in unified command. Many other agencies are assisting, including CalFire, Red Cross, Caltrans, animal control, and law enforcement from local, county, state, and federal agencies.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

UPDATE: June 25, 4:15 a.m.: Governor Jerry Brown has issued a state of emergency for Kern County, where the Erskine Fire has been burning. The fire has burned more than 30,000 acres, claiming two lives and destroying at least 100 structures.

In a statement posted to Gov. Brown’s official website, the governor said, “Anne and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to everyone impacted by this destructive blaze. We join all Californians in expressing our gratitude to the courageous firefighters, emergency personnel and volunteers working tirelessly throughout Kern County to help residents and extinguish this fire.”

The declaration not only marshals state resources to battle this blaze, it opens the door to request federal assistance if needed. That might not be necessary considering the fire started on land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service is a responding agency already, but the president and Congress could send more resources to California if the president declares a state of emergency.

Right now there are big fires burning in Arizona and New Mexico making 2016 another record year for wildfires.

California is in the fifth year of a severe drought, which is adding to the volatility of the fire season. According to the latest Inciweb report from the BLM, USFS and Kern County, low humidity along with high winds and excessive heat are all contributing to the fire, which they fear could begin yo grow rapidly once again.

As of 11 pm. Friday the fire was only five percent contained.

From the Inciweb report:

The Erskine Fire is burning in the Lake Isabella area of Kern County. The fire is currently estimated at 30,000 acres and is 5% contained. There are approximately 800 fire fighters on scene, with several hundred more in route to the fire.

Current recommended evacuation — Hwy 178 to Kelso Valley to Piute.
The Pacific Crest Trail is closed from Walker Basin Campground to Jawbone Canyon Road.
California Team 5 will take command of the fire at 8pm this evening.

Residents in the Lake Isabella and Erskine Creek area should prepare for possible evacuation. Additional evacuation information will be posted when it is available. Evacuations remain in effect for Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon. Hwy 178 is closed at Hwy 155 and at Sierra Way. Kernville Elementary School is now the primary shelter for evacuees. There are approximately 125 evacuees at the elementary school. The Red Cross Safe & Well site is available for those looking for loved ones affected by evacuations: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

UPDATE for the San Gabriel Complex fires:

The San Gabriel Complex consists of 2 fires that started the morning of June 20, the Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire. Combine acreage for the complex is now 5,267 acres (1,200 acres for the Reservoir Fire with 30% containment and 4,067 acres for the Fish Fire and 30% containment). 1001 personnel are currently engaged on these fires to including 82 engines, 25 handcrews, 9 water tenders and 7 bulldozers, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Fireworks are illegal on public lands: every forest, every campsite, every day.

For today’s perimeter map.
For today’s operations map.

For today’s infrared interpretation.
A Red Flag Warning will remain in effect until Saturday at 6 a.m.
All evacuations for the San Gabriel Complex have been lifted. The American Red Cross evacuation center has been closed.

Due to the power loss in Azusa Canyon, small water systems in the canyon are under a “Boil Water” order. This order was issued by Los Angeles County Public Health Department as a precautionary measure to ensure that the water distribution systems do not have bacterial contamination. Water needs to be boiled for 1 minute at a rolling boil before use. This order will be lifted after water passes two test that show there is no bacterial contamination. This order is applicable to all small water systems in Azusa canyon with the exception of Camp Williams.

Fire fighters continue to take advantage of the weather and the higher relative humidities to secure existing line and use the low light of night to help identify potential hotspots. Night operations are complex due to unseen hazards, challenging conditions but generally provide cooler temperatures and decreased fire activity. Communications are key during all operation of firefighting but especially so during night operations. Firefighters carry hand held radios as well as cell phones and establish priority communication systems while on incident.

Handcrews successfully accessed the fires edge in the steep and rugged terrain above Spinks Canyon Road. Crews were able to build direct fireline and reinforce existing line. Hotshot crews are one of the few fire fighting units capable of this task. By posting lookouts and observing fire behavior, they were able to successfully complete this mission safely. This action provided additional security to the homes in the area. Hotshots bring a high level of fitness and expertise to wildfire management. They are highly mobile and trained to be self-sufficient with their own vehicles and gear and specialized firefighting tools.

On the eastern edge of the Fish Fire, firefighters have continued to make significant progress. Some crews spent the night in place. This is refered to as “spiking out” or “coyote tactics.” These crews are self-sufficient and capable of staying in the field un-supported for up to 3 days. With today’s break in the weather, and utilizing appropriate tactics, firefighters are expected to make additional progress.

Last night firefighters continued to monitor and hold existing fireline. Throughout the night with wind shifts expected, safety is a primary concern. Structure defense will continue.

Fire restrictions are in effect and Angeles National Forest Order No. 01-16—04 is in effect regarding the use of campfires, smoking, firearms and welding.

When drones interfere with firefighting efforts, a wildfire has the potential to grow larger and cause more damage. On the San Gabriel Complex­­, an FAA Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect and any private aircraft or drone that violates the TFR could face serious criminal charges. Even without a TFR, anyone who hampers firefighting efforts could face charges­­­. For more information on drones the public can visit the FAA’s website at www.KnowBeforeYouFly.org. “If you fly, we can’t!­”

•••• •••• ••••• •••• ••••

Marina Fire: This fire started early Friday morning and has spread to 600 acres near Yosemite National Park.

The Marina Fire started at approximately 5:30 am on June 24 and has grown to about 600 acres. The fire is located north of Lee Vining and west of Highway 395 and is burning in pinyon and brush. The fire did spot across Highway 395 this afternoon south of Mono City pushed by strong down canyon winds.Highway 395 is closed at the town of Lee Vining on the south and at the turnoff for Hawthorn, NV on the north until at least 6:00 am on June 25. The Tioga Lodge and two additional residences have been evacuated. Lee Vining and Mono City are under an evacuation advisory.There are approximately 300 personnel on the fire. A Type 2 team has been ordered and will in brief tomorrow before assuming command of the fire.Helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, hand crews, and engines are being used to fight the fire. The fire is under Unified Command with the US Forest Service and Mono County Sheriff’s Office.

 

Top photo of Erskine fire courtesy of Cal Fire Facebook


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