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A view of the fire in the Feather River Canyon. Photo courtesy of USFS

Oct. 1: North Complex Fire – the long fight to continue

It’s Oct. 1 and another calendar month begins fighting the fires that broke out Aug. 17. Fire officials announced last night that full containment might not happen until November.

Three problem areas remain: the area in the south zone that continues to threaten fire lines near upper La Porte Road; the area in the north zone plaguing the Bucks Lake area; and the newest area that is embedded in the Feather River Canyon.

There are some bright spots though: La Porte residents have been allowed home, though they remain under an advisory; Bucks Lake residents are being allowed in to retrieve belongs during a brief window today and tomorrow (10 a.m. – 3 p.m. details below); and the remaining perimeter of the fire continues to hold.

The fire is now 314,949 acres and is 79 percent contained.

During last evening’s video informational meeting conducted by the Forest Service, viewers had a chance to pose questions, with some inquiring about the amount of resources available to fight the fire. As of last night, the number had dropped to under 2,000, but officials said they are moving personnel to the most critical junctures. They pointed to the obvious — with unprecedented fires burning across the state and the West — resources are stretched to the breaking point as it has already been an early and long fire season.

When asked why the fires weren’t put out initially, officials cited the terrain and weather conditions as prime factors and both continue to be problems. The fire that is now burning in the Feather River Canyon is in steep, rugged terrain prone to shifting, erratic winds. That potential for sudden wind shifts is also what is keeping the mandatory evacuation in place for Bucks Lake residents.

As for air attack, officials explained that it’s used whenever possible, but heavy smoke prevents planes and helicopters from flying, and the canyon terrain is dangerous for aircraft.

Crews continued to work overnight along Highway 70 — monitoring spot fires and preparing structure protection for buildings and critical infrastructure. With active fire on the steep slopes above, firefighters are reporting rock and tree rollout making its way onto the road.

Weather conditions continue to be hot and very dry. Winds are expected to be the typical pattern of downslope/down valley at night, shifting to upslope/upvalley during the heat of the day.

Air quality in the Quincy area is in the very unhealthy range this morning, with surrounding areas impacted with unhealthy air. That trend is expected to continue.

The fire which began Aug. 17, is now ranked fifth in California as being the the deadliest fire in modern history; fifth for being the largest fire, and sixth for the being the most destructive.

In the west zone, please see CAL FIRE Team 4 updates for more up to date information at: www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/2020/8/18/north-complex-fire/

Video operational updates and live broadcasts for all portions of the fire can be viewed on Plumas National Forest’s Facebook page. 

The North Complex began with the Claremont, Bear and Sheep fires. The latter broke out on the Plumas National Forest, but quickly pushed into Lassen County forcing evacuations around Susanville and destroying several homes. (It was broken off from the North Complex and handled separately).

The Claremont Fire broke out Aug. 17 as the result of a lightning strike. It forced evacuations and threatened the communities of East Quincy, La Porte Road, the Highway 70 corridor, Spring Garden, Greenhorn, Cromberg and Sloat during the past weeks. Only one outbuilding has been lost during the fire.

The Bear Fire also broke out Aug. 17 following a lightning strike. Initially it was left to burn because it wasn’t immediately a threat to people or property; it was in steep, rugged terrain; and resources were scarce due to the fires burning across the state. So though it held at 50 acres for a while, it grew to over 12,000 acres and threatened the communities of Bucks Lake, Haskins Valley, Tollgate and Meadow Valley. For full evacuation lists go to:

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.



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