There was mostly positive information to come out of the West Zone meeting tonight, with containment lines holding; towns being repopulated; and containment expected to increase soon.
As of this evening, April 22, the Dixie Fire is 724,110 acres, 38 percent contained, with 6,001 personnel assigned to it.
Incident meteorologist Joseph Goudsward said that the fire will continue in a rather quiet weather pattern. Southwest winds will be generally light with temperatures pretty close to normal. Temperatures go up toward the end of the week, but there aren’t any major weather concerns for the fire in the immediate future.
Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton reviewed the West Zone by specific areas but said that overall “we had some good progress on the fire today.”
West Shore: Is looking really good; just a few calls for nuisance smokes.
East Shore, Hamilton Branch, Peninsula, Westwood: These areas also continue to look really good and now that those areas are repopulated, there are more people to report smokes, but crews aren’t receiving many calls for service in those areas. Interior fuels can be seen burning north of Hwy 36, but the line is holding to protect these areas from the north, and the work around Dyer Mountain will protect them from the south. It is in the mop up stage.
Susanville: Heavy mop up near Susanville, the area could see black containment lines on the map soon. Getting close to full extinguishment.
Janesville: Is also looking really good, Brunton said, with the West Zone crews working closely with East Zone partners. They are working to surround this part of the fire and are edging closer to repopulation.
Mill Creek, Mineral and Childs Meadow: Are in the heavy mop up stage. According to Brunton, the only real fire is deep into a pocket and there is smoke visible. Once that area is contained and secured people will be able to go home. This pertains to the Highway 32/36 junction as well — smoke is visible — but there is no threat to the roadways.
Northwest flank: Crews are working direct and building secondary containment line.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: It is burning slowly in the park due to more favorable topography and fuels. However crews are doing a burn operation on the north end, should the fire burn through the park, to protect Hwy 44 and Shasta County. There is now a contingency branch in Shasta County to open up containment lines to address any incursion there.
Warner Valley: Crews are watching for hotspots and there is quite a bit of devastation in heavy timber and fuels, Brunton said. The areas here and elsewhere on the fire will smolder for a lot of days and months to come until heavy rain or snow falls. Still a lot of hazards that need to be mitigated before people can return to Warner Valley.
Brunton said that although there is a lot of red line drawn around the fire, he anticipates that soon there will be much more black, indicating that those areas of the fire are no longer considered a threat.
Later he addressed the number of smokes that people will see and warned residents not to try and extinguish those themselves. “There are things that we train our firefighters on” he said. You can step into an ash pit and receive severe burns that would put you in a burn unit, he explained. He said there is a difference between seeing active flames burning toward a structure, in which case residents should call for help immediately. As for the smoldering stumps and logs, they will be addressed, but it’s a painstaking process.
Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon reviewed evacuation orders that included the repopulation of Westwood, Clear Creek and Pine Town today; though they remain under a warning. Highway 36 between Susanville and Westwood remains closed, so residents can travel Highway 44 and then to A21 into Westwood, and Highway 36 is open from Highway 32 through Chester providing another option.
Growdon encouraged everyone to drive with their headlights on and to slow down due to poor visibility. “A lot of people are driving far too fast,” he said. If the smoke gets too think, Growdon advises drivers use their hazard lights.
Growdon said that Pine Creek, Westwood Clear Creek have power. LMUD worked with PG&E to bring power via A21. LMUD will be working on repairs to be able to restore direct power. As for the status of refrigerators/freezers, Growdon said the first outage was 24 hours; and the second outage lasted 12 hours. It was a clean shutoff by LMUD so there have been no reports of damaged appliances.
The next meeting for the West Zone will be Tuesday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.
According to tonight’s update, the fire is along Genesee Valley Road from Bridge Check all the way to the Genesee store, but everything is continuing to hold. There was some slop over on the western portion of the perimeter in the Genesee area, and dozers and engines were not able to pick it up. Crews are now re-evaluating and working on a plan to bring fire slowly down the hill and tie it into the road. Air support was able to fly again this afternoon after being grounded for a few hours.
The Beckwourth Hotshots worked at putting in fire line around the Grizzly spot fire which is approximately 360 acres. Plumas Hotshots will assist them tomorrow as they begin work on the west side of that spot. To the south of Grizzly peak, work has begun building contingency lines on the ridge system. (This is the area of the fire that could prove a threat to Greenhorn, East Quincy and communities along the Highway 70 corridor.)
In the area above Milford, work continues to strengthen control lines and hotshot crews are continuing to build direct line between the dozer lines coming from the top and the bottom. Around the rest of the fire, engines and crews are continuing to mop up and patrol.
The next meeting of the East Zone is Monday, Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m.