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Winds are pushing the Claremont Fire west against containment lines. This is the view from Lawrence Street in Quincy. Photo by Debra Moore

Sept. 1 Claremont Fire: UPDATED: Evacuees return home; aircraft helped the western edge

UPDATE 8:42 p.m.: Tonight the Claremont Fire grew slightly to 23,282 acres and remains 59 percent contained. This afternoon area residents could see large plumes of smoke rise from the western edge of the fire – a contrast to the afternoon’s blue skies.

East winds channeled by the Middle Fork of the Feather River pushed the Claremont Fire to the west. The fire moved uphill and spotted across dozer lines toward Claremont Trail. The spot fire was estimated at 3 to 5 acres and firefighters are working to contain it.

In addition to ground forces, multiple aircraft were used to help stop the spread and attack the spot and main body of the fire. Four single-engine air tankers, two MAFFs and a multitude of helicopters were called into action. Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems are portable fire retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into military C-130 aircraft without major structural modifications to convert them into airtankers when needed.

The top priority for the Claremont Fire is to hold the west flank of the fire as crews work throughout the night to bolster fireline.

The remainder of the fire perimeter of the Claremont remained relatively calm as firefighters worked to strengthen line and mop up.

UPDATE 6:47 p.m.: Sheriff Todd Johns just announced that residents from Greenhorn, Spring Garden and the Highway 70 corridor from Massack to Spring Garden that have been under mandatory evacuation can return home effective immediately. An advisory will remain in place so residents should be prepared to leave should conditions change.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m. : The sudden appearance of smoke against blue skies in Quincy this afternoon is more than a flareup. According to the Forest Service, east winds are driving the fire west toward Cattle Spring Mine and the Claremont Trail. It is pushing down drain through the  Middle Fork of the Feather River drainage and challenging containment lines. Aircraft are able to fly this afternoon and are attacking the fire.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: Effective as of 1:40 p.m. today, the remaining La Porte Road evacuees were allowed to return home. The mandatory evacuation for La Porte Road between Thompson Creek and Red Bridge is modified to advisory status. This means that they should remain prepared to leave at any time. The fire is still active within the burned area and residents may see spots of smoke. Fire personnel will be working to extinguish any flareups. Do not call 911 unless there is an immediate threat to life or property. Residents are also reminded to be on the alert for firefighters and equipment in the area. Only residents are allowed on La Porte Road. Residents have been away from their homes since Aug. 20.

UPDATE 10:15 a.m.: La Porte Road residents, who are still under evacuation, should be able to go home around noon today, and the Spring Garden and Greenhorn evacuees should be allowed to go home this evening — according to a presentation made by the Forest Service to the Board of Supervisors this morning. Reached for comment after the announcement, Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns said that he is confident about La Porte Road residents, and barring some unforeseen wind event, Greenhorn and Spring Garden residents would be allowed home this evening. The final decision won’t be made until late this afternoon or early evening.

UPDATE 9:10 a.m.: According to the Forest Service’s morning briefing the following is the focus of today’s activities: The top priority for the Claremont Fire will be to hold the fire in its current footprint and catch any potential spot fires as a wind shift will test containment lines today.

One focus will be the southeast edge between Spring Garden Road and Peoria Creek. Crews have worked to line and install hose lays around spot fires in that area for several days. To the west, the portion of the fire’s edge between Bray Creek to La Porte Road will be patrolled and mopped up as crews were able to secure the line through strategic firing operations Monday and into the night last night.

With the western movement of the Claremont Fire, tactical firing operations might be used in conjunction with ground and aviation resources to help control the fire. Firing operations are used to increase the width of fire lines and build a bigger “catcher’s mitt” to stop the fire’s progress when and where it is safe to do so.

As for weather and air quality, east winds and lower humidity will return today and could result in increased fire activity, especially along the fire’s western edge. Temperatures will remain warm as the forecast calls for a chance of record highs in the coming days. Northeast and east winds today and tonight will lead to good air quality conditions east and north of the North Complex fires, but areas to the west of the fires, including the community of La Porte and Little Grass Valley Reservoir, will be in the smoke’s path. Smoke will settle into valleys west and southwest of the fires tonight. Quincy will continue to see poor air quality, but likely be improved compared to Monday.

Original story: The Claremont Fire is 23,056 acres and 59 percent contained.

Residents in the fire area enjoyed clearer skies yesterday afternoon, but that revealed smoke plumes coming from the interior of the fire. The Forest Service said such smoke sightings are to be expected, but pose no danger to the public and fire crews are ready to put out those flare ups. While containment numbers on the fire are rising, that simply means that the fire is contained within an established perimeter, not that the fire is out.

Overall the fire was described as being “pretty calm” yesterday and little growth was reported. Crews held the fire in its footprint across all sides and worked to mop up several spot fires from Sunday. The mop up effort entails extinguishing any burning material, removing snags and treating logs so that they do not roll.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for the residents of Greenhorn and Spring Garden, as well as the upper portion of La Porte Road. Advisories remain in place for residents of Sloat and Cromberg. Yesterday, Sheriff Todd Johns had hoped to lift the evacuation orders for Greenhorn and Spring Garden, but after consulting with Incident Command, decided against the change. Structure protection remains in place for these areas and 24/7 patrol is being performed in the evacuated areas.

Thus far, only one outbuilding has been destroyed (on upper La Porte Road), but no homes have been lost. There are 1,595 personnel assigned to the North Complex, which includes the Claremont, Bear and Sheep Fires. Initially a majority of those resources were assigned to the Sheep, but as that fire winds down, resources are being shifted.

The Claremont Fire broke out Aug. 17 as the result of a lightning strike. It has threatened the communities of East Quincy, La Porte Road, the Highway 70 corridor, Spring Garden, Greenhorn, Cromberg and Sloat. It is part of the North Complex of fires burning on the Plumas National Forest. Below is the most recent evacuation orders for the fire and a map of the fire area.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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