The news is finally in and it’s not good: It’s going to be a fire fight in Chester today.
That’s the prediction from Operations Section Chief Mike Wink, reporting for the West Zone of the Dixie Fire. In the first specific update regarding this area, Wink said that fire has encircled Chester and flanks both sides of the Collins Pine Mill.
As he pointed to the upper left portion of the West Zone map, Wink said, “Since we spoke yesterday, the fire traveled ½ mile an hour … and moved over 14 miles to the north.”
“Fire did get up into Chester proper,” he said, explaining that it got into the ditch (a landmark for locals), then to the airport, and then burned around both sides of the town. However, before they could fully address the fire, they had to move residents who hadn’t evacuated.
“With the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, we established a temporary refuge area at the ball field,” he said.
Spot fires did occur in the town, but firefighters were able to put them out. As of this morning Chester remains circled by fire.
As for the mill, one of its out buildings caught fire but, “Alpha strike teams did a tremendous job of putting the fire out,” Wink said.
However Wink warned that the danger isn’t over for the mill or for Chester. The wind is forecast to change direction and come in from the west, potentially blowing the fire that spread north yesterday, east into Chester today. Wink said that crews have been forewarned. “It’s going to be a fire fight up in Chester today,” he said.
As for the West Shore, the fire has burned up to the community of West Almanor from the south, but is being held within a dozer line. On the Highway 89 side, Wink said fire is still a “little ways away.”
There are crews on the Peninsula and in Westwood, preparing structures in the case the fire reaches those locations.
Wink said that infrared technology is being fed to the fire management teams almost hourly. Wink explained that when the spots land in heavy, forested area under dense smoke, far from the perimeter, they can’t be seen by eye. It’s the infrared technology that alerts fire officials to the danger. He said that they have had success in stopping many of these fires.
Looking ahead, Wink said that plumes are already visible this morning, something that hasn’t been happening until the afternoon. He said that’s indicative of the fire’s spread last night and what’s in store for today.