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   These are the stories we are working on for this week's newspaper:
  • Quick fix: A plumbing problem is forcing the Plumas Unified School District to move its headquarters to the former probation building.
  • Lesser charges: A former Chester Public Utility District general manager pleaded guilty to reduced charges last month in connection with unauthorized use of a district credit card at a Reno strip club.

Chips Fire rages on

Feather Publishing
8/8/2012 10:00 p.m. update

Crews were successful today in controlling spot fires on the north flank of the fire in the area of Cottonwood Meadow. Firefighters also were able to contain multiple spot fires west of the Caribou Junction on Highway 70. A contingency line has been initiated from the Yellow Creek area to Butt Lake should the fire escape primary containment lines on the fire’s northeast flank. A north flank contingency line along Humbug Road is also under construction.

Containment objectives for the Chips Fire are to keep the fire south of Humbug Summit Road, north of Highway 70 and Tobin, west of the Butt Lake transmission lines, and East of Philbrook Reservoir. Crews are stationed in communities along the Feather River Canyon to provide structure protection.

Acreage remains the same because mapping flights were unable to safely fly over the fire area due to heavy smoke. Tonight’s winds are forecasted to shift from the southwest to down-canyon winds after 11:00 PM. Smoke is likely to settle into the canyon.

The California Department of Transportation is implementing traffic controls along Highway 70 due to safety concerns. Travelers should check Highway 70 conditions regularly (800-427-ROAD / www.dot.ca.gov). Motorists should expect delays and need to anticipate firefighting personnel and apparatus on the road in the vicinity of the fire.

Smoke will continue to pose health concerns for the public. Residents are encouraged to visit the “Protect Yourself from Smoke” website for smoke protection information at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Wildfires/. Local air quality conditions and forecasts are available at http://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.main.

 

For tips on how to prepare for a potential evacuation and what to do if you are evacuated, residents in and near evacuation areas are encouraged to visit the “Ready, Set, Go” website at http://www.inciweb.org/incident/article/3052/15480/.


8/8/2012 10:00 a.m. update

The Chips Fire is now 18,000 acres and remains just 10% contained.

Today crews will continue to aggressively attack an area where the fire escaped containment lines into the Mosquito Creek drainage. Aircraft will assist throughout the day by dropping water on hot spots near the fire's advancing edge as smoke conditions allow.

The fire is expected to slowly creep downslope towards Highway 70 on the southern flank where crews will mop-up along the line to secure additional containment. Fire activity along the western flank of the fire was minimal last night and crews will resume construction and improvement of western flank containment lines.


Containment objectives for the Chips Fire are to keep the fire south of Humbug Summit Road, north of Highway 70 and Tobin, west of the Butt Lake transmission lines, and East of Philbrook Reservoir. Crews are stationed in communities along the Feather River Canyon to provide structure protection.

Contingency lines beyond the primary containment lines are planned and the north contingency line along Humbug Road is now under construction.

8/7/2012 10:00 p.m. update

Firefighters managed to hold containment lines on the 16,787 acre Chips Fire today despite critical fire weather conditions. Crews attacked several new spot fires that were propelled by gusty winds near Mosquito Creek. They are also working to corral an area where the fire pushed past handlines near the mouth of Mosquito Creek.

Aircraft assisted throughout the day by dropping water on hot spots near the fire’s advancing edge. The fire continued its movement downslope towards Highway 70 on the southern flank. Fire activity along the western flank of the fire was minimal.

Containment objectives for the Chips Fire are to keep the fire south of Humbug Summit Road, north of Highway 70 and Tobin, west of the Butt Lake transmission lines, and East of Phillbrook Reservoir. Crews are stationed in communities along the Feather River Canyon to provide structure protection.

Contingency lines beyond the primary containment lines are planned. Crews will continue to construct contingency lines on the fire’s northern and eastern flanks.

Crews will work through the night to hold and improve containment lines, and will conduct burnout operations if conditions are favorable. Light to moderate fire activity is likely, especially on the ridges, due to low humidity. Down canyon winds are expected to create smoky conditions in the Feather River Canyon and south of the fire.


8/7/2012 8:30 p.m. update

The Chips fire has now grown to 16,787 acres. The fire remains only 10% contained and fire managers characterize the growth potential as "extreme".


Firefighters will be challenged by critical fire weather conditions that are expected to push the Chips Fire in a north to northeast direction. Additional crews, engines and dozers are positioned to aggressively attack any spot fires that may occur. Helicopters and air tankers will be used to assist ground resources where needed, and as smoke conditions allow.


Crews have begun mop-up of fire lines along Highway 70 in the Belden area. Crews will monitor for spot fires along the Feather River Canyon with the assistance of helicopters. Line construction continues on the fire's western flank continues.

PG&E is preparing to install three large generators as a precaution against potential loss of power transmission due to the fire. Click here for more information on the PG&E preparation.


8/7/2012 2:00 p.m. update

Fire managers will hold public meetings in Quincy and Canyon Dam to discuss the Chips Fire on Tuesday evening, August 7. The Quincy meeting will be held at the Quincy Veteran's Hall at 274 Lawrence Street and the Canyon Dam meeting will be held at the Canyon Dam Country Store. Both meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.

The Lassen National Forest has expanded the closure order to the north of the Chips Fire. The closed area now extends to Highway 89 along the west shore of Lake Almanor.

Click here to see the closure orders and maps.


8/7/2012 10:00 a.m. Update

Firefighters will be challenged by critical fire weather conditions that are expected to push the Chips Fire in a north to northeast direction. Additional crews, engines and dozers are positioned to aggressively attack any spot fires that may occur.

Helicopters and air tankers will be used to assist ground resources where needed, and as smoke conditions allow.

Crews have begun mop-up of fire lines along Highway 70 in the Belden area where containment has been achieved. Crews will monitor for spot fires along the Feather River Canyon with the assistance of helicopters. Line construction on the fire's western flank continues.

A new fire near the junction of Highways 89 and 70 was suppressed last night by crews working the Chips Fire.

Containment objectives for the Chips Fire are to keep the fire south of Humbug Summit Road, north of Highway 70 and Tobin, west of the Butt Lake transmission lines, and East of Phillbrook Reservoir.

Contingency lines beyond the primary containment lines are planned, and crews are starting to construct contingency lines on the fire's northern flank.

Resources aggressively attacked numerous spot fires on private lands along the northern flanks of the fire. A burning operation was discontinued due to unfavorable conditions and fire behavior. Gansner Bar, North Fork and Queen Lily campgrounds and USFS road 27N76 remain closed. The communities of Belden, Little Haven and Maggie's Trailer Park are on a precautionary evacuation notice. A voluntary evacuation notice has been issued for the Rush Creek area and the area south of Highway 89 that includes Butt Valley Reservoir and Humbug Reservoir. Residents along Highway 70 from Tobin to Twain are encouraged to begin developing evacuation plans. A one mile, one lane traffic closure remains in effect on Highway 70. Motorists should use caution on Hwy 70 in the fire area. Expect delays and traffic controls. Portions of the Pacific Crest, Yellow Creek, Ben Lomond, and Indian Creek hiking trails remain closed.


8/7/12 8:45 a.m. update

The Chips Fire continued to grow toward the north and northeast remaining within containment lines. Several spot fires occurred outside the northern flank of the fire and were aggressively attacked with crews, dozers, and engines.

The acreage is now reported at 15,334 acres. Containment is 10%.

Click here for the latest Chips Fire map including the projected final containment line

Crews made progress toward containment of the spot fire east of the Caribou Road. Crews continue to improve containment lines on the fire’s western flank. Last night engine crews continued to improve and hold containment lines along the Caribou Road and Highway 70 where the fire is backing down slope.

Winds shifted last night to down canyon out of the northeast. Smoke settled into the Feather River Canyon and Sacramento Valley during the night.

The California Department of Transportation is implementing traffic controls along Highway 70 due to safety concerns. Travelers should check Highway 70 conditions regularly (800-427-ROAD / www.dot.ca.gov). Motorists should expect delays and need to anticipate firefighting personnel and apparatus on the road in the vicinity of the fire.

Smoke will continue to be a health concern for the public. Residents are encourage to visit the “Protect Yourself from Smoke” websites for smoke protection information at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Wildfires/.


8/6/12 5:00 p.m. update

Fire managers will hold public meetings in Quincy and Canyon Dam to discuss the Chips Fire on Tuesday evening, August 7. The Quincy meeting will be held at the Quincy Veteran's Hall at 274 Lawrence Street and the Canyon Dam meeting will be held at the Canyon Dam Country Store. Both meetings begin at 6:00 p.m.

The fire is now 13,867 acres. Estimated containment has been pushed back to 8/21/2012.


Click here for the latest Chips Fire map including the projected final containment line

 


8/6/2012 9:00 a.m. update

The Chips Fire started in the Chips Creek drainage. It quickly moved into the adjacent Little Indian Creek drainage. Then it started spotting up to 2 miles ahead of the main fire into the Yellow Creek drainage and both sides of the North Fork Feather River. This has left fire managers with no alternative other than to back off to existing roads and natural barriers where they can fight the fire on their own terms.

This strategy is known as indirect attack. It is the only way to fight this kind of fire. They started fighting the fire using a direct attack strategy; working right at the fire's edge. Firefighters start at the back of the fire and try to cut line up the fire's flank until the fire is encircled with a fireline that starves the fire of the fuel it needs to burn.

Once a fire in such steep terrain becomes large, direct attack no longer works. Wind borne embers spread the fire ahead of the main blaze. Snags left from the 13 year old Storrie fire turn into roman candles launching burning embers well ahead of the main fire. Burning material rolls out in the steep terrain. Firefighters can get trapped in between the main fire and the spot fires. It becomes extremely unsafe....and it doesn't work. The fire spreads from spot fires above and below the main fire. It is futile. Firefighters have to back off. Indirect attack becomes the only reasonable option.

ButteSmoke2
Smoke can be seen billowing high above the Chips fire from the foothills of Butte County on the afternoon of Aug 5. Photo by Michael Condon

Fire fighters are now working in indirect mode. Resources completed 9 miles of dozer line and 1 mile of handline yesterday. Crews will continue to assess tactics for direct attack on the spot fire east of Caribou Road.

Final fire size is now projected to be over 32,000 acres.


Growth of the Chips Fire slowed last night by increased humidity and calm winds. Crews were able to complete containment lines around two spot fires along the fire’s north flank and will work to improve containment lines along the entire north flank. On the fire’s east flank, crews began construction of containment lines around a spot fire that crossed the North Fork of the Feather River in the Red Hill area. Crews will work aggressively today to contain this spot fire with the assistance of helicopters and air tankers (when visibility allows). Engine crews will continue to improve and hold containment lines along the Caribou Road and Highway 70 where the fire continues to back down slope. Crews are continuing to construct and improve containment lines on the fire’s western flank.

Click here to see the most recent fire map.

 

8/5/12 - 8:15 p.m. Update

The 10,387 acre Chips fire demonstrated significant growth today, with very active fire behavior along the entire perimeter. Crews were assisted by dozers and aircraft in direct attack on spot fires east of Caribou Road and north of the fire. The fire also pushed south within several hundred feet of Highway 70, but has held within containment lines. Gansner Bar, North Fork and Queen Lily campgrounds and USFS road 27N76 remain closed.

The communities of Belden, Little Haven and Maggie's Trailer Park are on a precautionary evacuation notice. A voluntary evacuation notice has been issued for the Rush Creek area and the area south of Highway 89 that includes Butt Valley Reservoir and Humbug Reservoir. Residents along Highway 70 from Tobin to Twain are encouraged to begin developing evacuation plans.

A one mile, one lane traffic closure remains in effect on Highway 70. Motorists should use caution on Hwy 70 in the fire area. Expect delays and traffic controls. Portions of the Pacific Crest, Yellow Creek, Ben Lomond, and Indian Creek hiking trails remain closed.

Planned Actions:

Crews are planning to conduct burnout operations along Caribou Road if conditions are warrented. They're also planning to continue direct attack on spot fires outside of the containment lines on the north and east flanks of the fire. Engine crews will continue to provide structure protection in the Feather River Canyon area.

Resources completed 9 miles of dozer line and 1 mile of handline today. Crews will continue to assess tactics for direct attack on the spot fire east of Caribou Road. A reduction in containment from 5% to 0% due to a stategic decision to switch from direct fire attack to indirect attack therefore increasing the future containment line. Total Fire Acres within the indirect fire line: Plumas National Forest = 12,114 / Lassen National Forest = 20,074.

8/5/12 - 4 p.m. Update

Plumas County Sheriffs’ Office Press Release and Evacuation Order for the “Chips Fire" Incident

Over the past 24 hours the Chips Fire has produced “spot fires” up to two miles ahead of the fire line. This fire behavior has caused this necessary change to the below listed Evacuation Area to help ensure the safety of the public and the fire personnel in the area.

Due to current weather conditions and fire behavior the following Road Closures, Evacuation Orders and Sheriff’s Advisement are in effect.

Road Closures

- Caribou Road is under a “Hard Closure” from Hwy. 70 to Butt Lake Dam.

- Rush Creek road and all additional secondary roads North of Highway 70 between Rock Creek Dam and Twain are under a “Soft Closure."

- From the corner of Hwy. 89 and Seneca Road to Butt Lake Dam, Ohio Valley Road Butt Lake Road, Humbug/Humbolt Road and all additional secondary roads South of Highway 89 between Canyon Dam and the Humbug/Humbolt Road are under a “Soft Closure.”

Evacuation Orders

- Sheriff’s Mandatory Evacuation- Hwy. 70 at Caribou Road to the Butt Lake Dam

- Sheriff’s Voluntary Evacuation- Rush Creek Road, Butt Lake Area, Ohio Valley, Humbug and Humbolt Area, and Yellow Creek Area

- Sheriff’s Advisement- Hwy. 70 from Tobin to Twain.

Definitions:

Sheriff’s Advisement- Will be sent to all local radio and news stations, Public Information Officer Plumas County, Local OES Director, Fire Departments in the affected area, and the Chips Incident Command Team. Due to the Chips Fire and it’s behavior the above listed communities are under a Sheriff’s Advisement. Residents are encouraged to make an evacuation plan, to include the gathering of photos, important documents and priceless keepsakes. Please discuss with your family a location you will travel to, should the need arise to evacuate. Ensure you have also made arrangements for the care and safekeeping of your pets.

Sheriff’s Voluntary Evacuation - Due to the potential threat to life and property by a wild land fire, residents are encouraged to leave the area. The area will be staffed by Law Enforcement and residents will be advised of the threat, but no road closures for residents living in the area. The general public will not be allowed in the area “Soft Closure.”

Sheriff’s Mandatory Evacuation - Due to fire behavior and/or proximity to the wild land fire residents are in imminent danger or the potential for imminent danger exists. Residents are encouraged to leave the area and road closures will be in effect for all roads around the evacuated area. These closures are “hard closures” residents and the general public will not be allowed back and/or escorted into the area until the evacuation is lifted “Hard Closures” to the local highways could also be established for the safety of fire personnel in the area. If “hard closures” are established it is a “Sheriff’s Mandatory Evacuation”, due to the fact that the general public will not be allowed free access and therefore can not adequately maintain food, supplies, medicine, etc.



8/5/12 - 9:30 a.m. Update

The Chips fire is now listed at 9,231 acres, and is at 0% containment. The fire grew in multiple directions last night as the result of strong winds associated with passing thunderstorms. A 200-acre spot fire outside containment lines has been detected east of the Caribou Road and is being aggressively attacked with ground and air resources. The main fire also was pushed southwest towards Highway 70 but has held within containment lines. Two other spots outside containment lines have been detected on the fire’s northern flank and are also being aggressively attacked by crews, dozers and air resources. Gansner Bar, North Fork and Queen Lily campgrounds and USFS road 27N76 remain closed. The communities of Belden, Little Haven and Maggie's Trailer Park are on a precautionary evacuation notice. A one mile, one lane traffic closure remains in effect on Highway 70. Portions of the Pacific Crest, Yellow Creek, Ben Lomond, and Indian Creek hiking trails remain closed.

8/4/12 - 8:15 p.m. Update

The Chips fire is now listed at 6,814 acres, and is at 0% containment. The reduction in containment from 5% to 0% is due to a strategic decision to switch from a direct fire attack to indirect attack, therefore increasing the future containment line. Good progress was made with indirect line production - 10 miles of hand line and roadway have been completed with an additional 7 miles of dozer line. Crews continued to scout containment lines. The indirect line to the north of the fire was strengthened with retardant drops. A one mile, one lane traffic closure remains in effect on Highway 70. Portions of the Pacific Crest, Yellow Creek, Ben Lomond, and Indian Creek hiking trails remain closed.

The following google fire map provided by Feather Publishing does not show the updated fire perimeter for Saturday, however everything else is accurate.

View Chips Fire, Plumas County, California in a map

8/4/12 - 12:45 p.m. Update

The Chips Fire is now at 6,034 acres, yet still only at 5% containment.

Firefighters will continue indirect line construction around the Chips fire today. Due to the safety considerations related to the extremely steep, rocky, and inaccessible terrain, fire crews are not able to safely construct direct fire line. Indirect line will continue near Rogers Flat, to the southwest of the main fire, as well as northeast of the main fire and spot fire off of Caribou Road. The objective is to suppress the fire. Crews are doing everything they can to safely suppress the fire as quickly and efficiently as possible. Crews will also be available to assist the Plumas and Lassen National Forests with initial attack for any new fire starts around the fire area. Firefighters continued to provide structure protection for residences and businesses around and near Belden.

Fire Behavior:

A Red Flag Warning has been issued for the area from 5pm today to 5pm Sunday for thunderstorms and dry lightning. These thunderstorms are capable of producing new fire starts and gusty outflow winds of up to 50 mph. Weather will be much like previous days this week with hot and dry conditions expected over the fire. The fire is expected to continue spreading northeast across ridgelines between Indian and Yellow Creek. The spot fire continues to creep down to the southeast toward Caribou Road. It has grown to around 400 acres and is expected to merge with the main fire.

A new spike camp has been set up on the north side of the fire at Yellow Creek.


See the Chips fire progression by day...
Chips Fire Progression by day

8/4/12 - 9:00 a.m. Update

There is not a lot of new information to report. The fire likely grew some over-night but as of 5:30 this morning the acreage was still reported to be 4,852 acres. There are now over 500 personnel assigned to the incident including 15 hand crews, 15 engines, and 8 helicopters.

Perhaps the biggest concern today is the weather forecast. Lighting is predicted over the area today and tomorrow. Lightning can cause more fire starts. Lightning cells can also produce very strong downdraft winds. These gusts of wind blow straight down out of the cell and when they hit the ground the terrain can channel the wind in all directions. When this occurs over an existing fire it can cause serious flareups and move the fire in unpredictable directions. This unpredictability can be both a challenge and a real safety hazard for firefighters.

Fires don't typically move much at night and intelligence is much harder to gather. One key piece of information gathered at night is the infrared map. This is a map of the fire heat image. There is a specially equipped airplane at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise Idaho that produces these images.

The infrared photography is gathered at night when the surrounding rocks, soil, and vegetation are cooler than during the day. This helps produce a high contrast image. Fire managers use this information to map the fire perimeter, determine the fire acreage, locate undiscovered spot fires, and located the hottest burning portions of the fire.

The only potential problem with this imagery is that the Chips Fire is one of forty large fires burning across the country at this time. Most are in the Northern Rockies. Click here to see the Incident Management Situation Report. There will be lots of potential assignments for the infrared aircraft and not every fire will get flown every night.

8/3/2012 — 11:15 p.m. Update

The Chips Fire is now 4,852 acres and just 5% contained, with a new estimated containment date of August 18, 2012.

Chester Community Meeting: The Chips Fire Incident Management Team is holding a community meeting to provide the public with current information on fire suppression efforts, 6:00 p.m. Saturday, August 4, 2012, at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, 225 Gay Street in Chester, CA.

Today’s Update: Crews continued with indirect line preparation on the Chip’s fire today. Due to the safety considerations related to the extremely steep, rocky, and inaccessible terrain, fire crews are not able to safely construct direct fire line. Scouting continued today along the northwest perimeter of the fire for possible fire line locations. Fire line was completed to the southwest of the main fire. Firefighters continued to provide structure protection for residences and businesses around and near Belden.

Fire Behavior: Hot and dry conditions were experienced over the fire today with temperatures soaring to over 100 degrees. Fire activity remained minimal due to the shading from the smoke column over both the main fire and the spot fire near Caribou Road. The spot fire continued creeping down to the southeast toward Caribou Road and has grown to around 400 acres. A Red Flag Warning has been issued for the area from Saturday at 5pm to Sunday at 5pm for thunderstorms and dry lightning. These thunderstorms are capable of producing new fire starts and gusty outflow winds of up to 50 mph.

Closures and Evacuations: Butt Valley Reservoir recreation facilities (Ponderosa Flat Campground, Cool Springs Campground, Ray Adams Day Use and Boat Launch as well as Yellow Creek Campground) are closed due to the fire.
Maggie’s Trailer Park and Little Haven remain under a precautionary evacuation notice. A hard closure remains in place along Caribou Road from Highway 70 to Butt Lake. Gansner Bar, North Fork, and Queen Lily USFS campgrounds remain closed. Communities of Meadow Valley, Chester, Canyon Dam, Greenville, and Susanville area are not threatened nor are those to the far west including Paradise, Jarbo Gap, Concow, etc.
A fire closure area has been established for both the Plumas and Lassen National Forests and will be in place until the area is safe. Please see the Forest Orders and closure maps on InciWeb (address above). Pacific Crest Trail hikers may bypass the area by hiking Highway 70/89 or catching a bus with Plumas Transit to Chester, CA (weekdays only). Travelers should check Highway 70 conditions regularly (800-427-ROAD / www.dot.ca.gov). Motorists need to anticipate firefighting personnel and apparatus on the road in the vicinity of the fire. Chips Fire Google Map.

 

Firehawk
A Sikorsky Firehawk helicopter sits on the tarmac at the Quincy airport waiting for its next assignment. Photo by Michael Condon


Feather Publishing
8/3/2012 7:00 a.m. Update

 


The Chips Fire is now 4,352 acres and just 5% contained.

The fire burned less aggressively yesterday than it did on Wednesday. Moderate fire behavior resulted in short up hill run and short range spotting up to 1/4 mile from the main fire.

The main fire is continuing to spread northeast into Indian and Yellow Creek. The spot fire above Caribou Road has become established and is close to 300 acres and will continue to spread into the North Fork Feather River Canyon. The southern perimeter will continue to back down the slope toward Highway 70.

There is 1-way controlled traffic along Highway 70 for a 3 mile stretch near Belden.

The fire is burning in the footprint of the 13 year old Storrie fire; heavy smoke/ash are the result of dense, heavy brush and dead wood from that burn. Southwesterly winds are continuing to push smoke and ash in a northeast direction filling the Honey Lake Valley in Lassen County, the Almanor Basin, and all points along the way in the afternoon. Overnight the down slope breezes pushed the smoke in to Chico and the surrounding Sacramento Valley.

Fire managers are employing an "indirect attack" strategy. This means they will use roads, ridges and natural barriers which are more defensible to locate firelines. This is a more efficient and safer strategy for a large fire in such steep and inaccessible terrain. The fire is likely to get much larger with this sort of strategy.

There are now 426 personnel assigned to the Chips Fire.


8/2/2012 3:00 p.m. update
Michael Condon
Staff Writer

The Chips Fire is burning actively this afternoon but less so than at this time yesterday.

Fire intensity can be judged by the smoke column. During the early morning, the fire burns less intensely and the smoke appears to drift in a hazy manner. As the afternoon heats up and the up-canyon winds increase, the fire will burn more actively and the smoke column will take on more of a vertical appearance almost like the cumulus clouds we see with thunder storms. Although somewhat obscured by the drifting smoke, a more vertical column is now visible from Quincy.

Another way to judge how hot and fast a fire is burning is to view the smoke from a satellite image such as the one on this link. The smoke is visible from space. It can be seen drifting into Lassen County. At this time yesterday, the smoke column was much larger and drifting well into Nevada.

We are likely to see this sort of activity for the next several days. The fire will likely increase in intensity and experience another major run if the fire crosses the North Fork of the Feather River near Caribou. Currently there is a large spot fire on the ridge to the west of that area.

The mandatory evacuation of Maggie's Maple Leaf has been lifted.

A new incident base is being established at the end of Mill Creek Road in East Quincy. It appears that many new resources are being added to the fire fighting effort.

One firefighter was transported from the fire line to the hospital in Quincy with a reported dislocated shoulder.


8/2/2012 8:00 a.m. update
Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

Chips fire grows to 2,541 acres

Wind, heat and low humidity combined to help a wildfire two miles northwest of Belden double in size in a matter of hours. Click here to see the most recent map of the fire.

During a Wednesday afternoon briefing at the Caribou Campground command center, the U.S. Forest Service said the Chips Fire had grown to more than 2,000 acres.

A Forest Service operations chief at the planning meeting told fire fighters that crews had “given up direct attack” on the fire. The chief said crews were in the process of expanding the defensive perimeter.

A large plume of smoke and falling ash was visible in many areas of the county.

Four residences in Maggie’s Trailer Park near Belden were evacuated Wednesday afternoon as the southern edge of the fire burned down the hill to the side of Highway 70. Red Cross volunteers have opened a shelter at the Quincy Veterans Hall, 274 Lawrence St.

The highway was still open Wednesday afternoon. But motorists were urged to use caution because of limited visibility and a growing number of firefighting personnel and equipment in the area.

There were 14 20-person ground crews, six engines, as well as nine helicopters and several air tankers fighting the fire. The Forest Service said addition resources were expected to join the battle.

The fire was reportedly 5 percent contained. But the Forest Service reported that full containment wouldn’t take place until Aug. 15, at the earliest.

Weather conditions aren’t helping firefighters. Temperatures were in the 90s, with humidity of about 10 percent.

Those conditions were expected to last into the weekend, when lightning storms are predicted to hit the area.

In addition to campground closures in the area, Caribou Road is expected to be closed between Highway 70 and the Butt Lake dam.

Ben Lomond, Indian Springs and Pacific Crest trails are closed from Highway 70 to the Lassen National Forest border.

Dorothy Wilson, the postmaster at Maggie’s, said she is holding about 60 boxes of supplies for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail who have not been able to pick them up.

Wilson praised the work of fire crews as she was evacuating the area.

“I’m very impressed with the work they have been doing here. I feel like I’m wrapped in safety,” Wilson said. “They are my heroes.”

The fire jumped the line to the northwest, and started a spot fire that had grown to about 300 acres by Thursday morning.

THe incident base camp is being to moved to the end of Mill St. in East Quincy.

Chip1
Smoke from the Belden Fire is clearly visible in Quincy, 20 miles east of the fire. The fire is making a major run this afternoon and the smoke can be seen from Chico to Susanville and beyond. Photo by Kevin Mallory
8/1/2012
8:30 p.m. update

The Chips Fire is now estimated to be 2,400 acres in size and only 5% contained. Full containment is expected on 8/15/2012. The fire has spread down to Highway 70; there is controlled traffic on about 3 miles of highway.

The fire itself burned very aggressively to the east, north/east today as temperatures soared, humidity dipped and winds picked up. The fire is burning in the footprint of the 13 year old Storrie fire; heavy smoke/ash are the result of dense, heavy brush and dead wood from that burn.

The fire is established in the Chips Creek drainage on the west and close to the Yellow Creek drainage on the east. The head of the fire will continue to spread in the Indian Creek drainage to the northwest, north, and northeast. A 10 acre spot fire is burning on the ridge above Caribou Road about 1.5 miles up.

The fire will be mapped later tonight (infrared flight). Prevailing winds (out of the southwest blowing to the northeast) pushed smoke and ash in a northeast direction filling Honey Lake Valley in Lassen County and all points along the way. Overnight, residents can expect heavy smoke and ash to settle in surrounding valleys.

The Caribou Road (Forest Service Rd No. 27N26) corridor, Maggies Trailer Park and Little Haven (several residences) were evacuated as a precaution this afternoon as were the Butt Lake Campgrounds. Communities of Meadow Valley, Chester, Canyon Dam, Greenville, and Susanville area are not threatened nor are those to the far west including Tobin, Paradise, Jarbo Gap, Concow, etc. Structure protection continues for residences/businesses around and near Belden.


5:00 p.m. Update

The Chips Fire continues to burn very actively. Yesterday evening it was estimated to be 1,000 acres. Fire managers now estimate the fire size has doubled to more than 2,000 acres.

There have been numerous spot fires this afternoon as the winds carry burning embers ahead of the main fire. One such spot fire was reported a mile and a half out ahead of the main fire. That spot fire was 1 acre a few hours ago.

The fire is spotting to the north. Even though the main fire is burning to the north away from Highway 70 there were more evacuations today. Residents and visitors at Caribou Crossroads and Maggie's Trailer Park were both asked to evacuate.

Given the size and ferocity of this fire, firefighters are changing their strategy from a direct attack to an indirect attack. Indirect attack allows them to fight the fire by backing off to more favorable terrain and fighting the fire on their terms. Indirect attack allows firefighters to use ridge tops and roads as fire lines and allows them sufficient time to improve the defensibility of those firelines. Backfiring is also used to remove flammable fuel before the main fire burns into those lines.

It also means the fire is likely to get much larger.


1:30 p.m. update

The Chips Fire is burning very intensely this afternoon. It appears to be making a major run to the north/north east. A large smoke column is visible from most of Plumas County and surrounding areas.

Fire managers do not know the exact size of the fire but as yesterday evening they were estimating the fire to be 1,000 acres. An early morning infrared photograph showed the fire had burned to the Lassen National Forest boundary, about 3 air miles north of where the fire started.

The smoke column is clearly visible from space. Click here to see the current satellite loop. Also notice the very white clouds along the southern Sierra/Nevada border. Those are thunderstorms and they are forecast to move north over the next few day, possibly bringing dry lightning to our area this weekend.

A road closure and evacuation order has been issued for the Caribou Road from Highway 70 to the Butt Reservoir Dam. Highway 70 remains open but could be closed if the fire poses a threat to public safety or road traffic interferes with fire fighting efforts. The fire is burning away from the highway, but travelers should check road conditions (800-427-ROAD / http://www.dot.ca.gov/ ) before traveling Highway 70 through the Feather River Canyon.


7/31/2012
8:00 p.m.

 

ALERT: The fire has crossed Indian Creek (a small drainage just north of Belden; not the Indian Creek that drains Indian Valley) at about 6:00 p.m. Tuesday evening. Campers along Caribou Road are asked to voluntarily evacuate their campsites tonight; however evacuation will be mandatory Wednesday morning. PCT hikers are not to use Caribou Road.

The Chips fire was discovered early Sunday morning along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Feather River Canyon of Plumas County. It is burning in extremely steep and rugged terrain northwest of Quincy.

S64
This Sikorsky S-64 helicopter assigned to the Chips Fire can carry 2,600 gallons of water. The snorkel hanging from the helicopter allows it to reload in 45 seconds without landing.

The fire was estimated to be 400 acres by the end of the day Monday. By the end of the day today, it had more than doubled to an estimated 1,000 acres. Click here to see the most recent fire map.

Rising temperature and lowering humidity hampered firefighting efforts this afternoon; the fire became extremely active burning to the north/northeast. The smoke column was visible many miles away. The blaze is only 10 percent contained. Air tankers and helicopters have been assisted ground crews throughout the day.

The fire remains north of Highway 70 and between Chips Creek and Yellow Creek.

Tonight, smoke will again settle in the canyon and nearby areas. Challenges include low humidity, diurnal (up slope in morning and down slope in afternoon) winds, burning debris "rolling out," snags and heavy fuel loading and steep inaccessible terrain.

Command of the fire will be transitioned to a Type 2 Incident Management team tomorrow, August 1.

Structure protection continues for four residences in Maggies Trailer Park. Highway 70 is open but travelers should check highway conditions regularly (800-427-ROAD / http://www.dot.ca.gov/ ). CalTrans traffic stops continue; motorists should watch out for CalTrans workers and firefighters. On Caribou Road, Gansner Bar and North Fork Campgrounds are closed but Queen Lily is open for public camping. All other businesses are open per their normal hours. The fire was discovered early morning on Sunday, July 29, up the Chips Creek drainage along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Feather River Canyon.

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