July 29 p.m. update: 6,079 personnel on the Dixie Fire

The winds were howling and lightning was reported over parts of the Dixie Fire this evening, but there wasn’t a meteorologist during tonight’s briefing to answer questions regarding the impacts and upcoming forecast. The weather was the most significant change from the previous days, as the rest of the presentation focused on reinforcing the work that has been accomplished thus far.

The fire is now 226,421 acres and remains 23 percent contained. Personnel assigned to the fire has increased to 6,079. That number refers to agency personnel and contractors associated with fighting the fire — not just the firefighters themselves. However, it doesn’t include vendors that provide food, showers, and other support. A new fact was learned tonight – there is approximately 900,000 feet of hose lay that has been put out on the ground.

West Zone

Operations Section Chief Mike Wink said there is no change in operations on the Highway 70 corridor, as crews assist utility companies and others restoring the roadway. In addition, tactical patrols are looking for hotspots.

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Wink said the “big story here” is that overnight on the Butte Meadows portion, crews were successful in completing a fire operation and going direct on another portion so that several thousand acres didn’t have to burned. The operation produced a lot of smoke and a pyrocumulus cloud formed over the main fire pulling in the controlled fire. The good news is that there were no spot fires. “We had the right people in place,” he said of the difficult operation.

On the other portions of the perimeter, the lines continue to hold and crews are focused on slowly filling the gap between the lines and the fire. “Lake Almanor in general has been holding for multiple days,” Wink said.

East Zone

Operations Section Chief John Goss said that conditions today did change a bit and some areas of the fire got active. Just west of Twain in the Rush Creek area, crews encountered some holding issues. From Eagle Rock to Round Valley Reservoir there were no holding issues, but down into Moccasin “what we are seeing right now is some increased winds,” and the fire continued back down into Emigrant Road. There are some planned ignitions along Mount Hough Road tonight, but crews are waiting for the cooler temps and the winds to decrease. North of Meadow Valley and Bucks Lake, crews are going direct, and they continue to remain optimistic about protecting those two communities.

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Plumas National Forest Supervisor Chris Carlton said that great progress has been made on the ground and he is cautiously optimistic, though concerned that the wind might test the lines that have been put in. “We are hoping everything holds and if it doesn’t we’ll go back in,” he said.

Those increased winds prompted Chandler Peay, of the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, to ask residents in the Indian Valley area who have not evacuated to stay at their residences. “Some are getting in the way,” of the firefighting effort, he said. He added that all mandatory evacuations that have been ordered for this fire remain in place.

There are still three shelters open: Quincy, Chester, and Susanville with 58 people inside 17 outside because of pets. Pets aren’t allowed in Red Cross shelters.

Peay said officials would be setting up a local assistance center and that normally happens when the fire has subsided. Such is the case in Lassen County where a two-day event will be held to help the victims of the Beckwourth Complex that ignited June 30 and has been at close to 100 percent containment for a couple of weeks.

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Questions and answers

Can the area be affected by mud flows this winter? Yes, and crews will be evaluating all of the areas impacted. This will be particularly critical in the Highway 70 corridor.

When will Highway 70 open? There are lots of agencies involved in the decision, but there is damage to the Elephant Tunnel that must be addressed, as well as damaged guardrail, hazard trees, and falling debris and rocks.