“Happy to see the sun today,” said Incident Meteorologist Joseph Goudsward as he gave his presentation during tonight’s West Zone meeting for the Dixie Fire. That’s an indication of just how big this fire is because most people on the East Zone didn’t see any sun, it was more like a snowstorm of ash.
And the Dixie Fire is big — as of this evening, Aug. 18, the fire is 662,647 acres, 34 percent contained and has 5,982 personnel assigned to it.
Continuing with his update, Goudsward said northeast winds will be in place again tonight and tomorrow, with gusts on the ridgetops. The southwest winds return Friday.
The West Zone’s fire behavior analyst, Brian Newman, and Operations Section Chief Mark Brunton both addressed specific areas of the fire. Following is a sysnopsis of their comments.
Butte Sector: The southwest portion of the fire continues to hold well. There are some pockets of fuel still burning in the interior, which will produce visible smoke, but they are will within the perimeter of the fire.
Almanor communities: Brunton said that crews continue working in the Almanor communities, and they will be prepared for repopulation. (That began to occur today as the mandatory order was reduced to a warning.) “The east side of the lake looks really good; Hamilton Branch, the Peninsula, Westwood looks good,” he said. Incident Commander Geoff Belyea asked residents to remain alert as there is still active fire in the area and to report visible smoke.
Susanville: “Do have some concerns that the fire could push north to Susanville in the next couple of days when wind shifts,” Newman said. As of now, the northeast winds are pushing the fire back onto itself and away from Susanville. Brunton discussed the need to keep fire out of Cheney drainage and the Susanville drainage to protect Susanville.
Silver Lake: Brunton said that the area many have seen some structure loss a number of days ago.
Lassen National Park: Newman said that the fire is progressing against the wind, but is producing a lot of heat and making steady runs. On the top, north edge of the fire heat is being pushed back into the main part of the fire.
Childs Meadow: The fire has slopped over and there are some spots; but firefighters are working to protect structures.
Mineral: No structures have been lost in Mineral.
Westwood: Newman reported that there was some activity there, though it’s not currently challenging the lines. He described “quite a bit of activity on Hamilton Mountain” and expects that again tomorrow.
Janesville: Newman said that this fire is expected to combine with the main fire and continue to push to the southeast . Brunton said that crews have been preparing for the fire to reach Janesville for days and are working to protect structures. This is the area that’s most conducive to flying fixed-wing aircraft and they were used today. In his report, Sheriff Dean Growdon said that Janesville, as well as Milford have been keeping his staff very busy for the past few nights trying to keep people safe.
Milford: No structures have been lost.
“Primary concern is Janesville/Milford where the fire has been so active,” Growdon said. “Everyone should be paying attention to the Caltrans website and road status, they can change at any time.”
More on Lassen County
While Almanor Basin residents were allowed to return home, Westwood, Pinetown, Clear Creek remain under an evacuation order. Sheriff Growdon said that there is a plan to reduce it to a warning, but based on the activity on the south side of 36 and Hamilton Mountain, he wasn’t comfortable moving forward today. It will be evaluated daily.
Growdon reminded Lassen residents that there are number of personnel in the county helping with evacuations and patrols. He said that if those people knock on your door and ask you to leave, they are doing it at his direction. He commended the valiant effort made by firefighters to protect those communties.
Plumas weighs in
Plumas National Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton made an appearance at the West Zone briefing, he said, because “we are going to start combining some of these messages.” He said Plumas and Lassen neighbors were united by a common fire and a common challenge.
It was also learned tonight that some resources assigned to the Dixie Fire have been released to other fires due to the number of large fires burning and the shortage of resources, but the incident commander assured viewers of tonight’s briefing that there is adequate staff that will be surged where most needed.
Next scheduled briefing for the West Zone is Friday, Aug. 20, at 7 p.m.