Sept. 3 Dixie Fire p.m. update: Today wind was the fire’s friend

By Michael Condon

Former Fire and Aviation Chief for the Plumas National Forest

Special to Plumas News

 

Wind plays a dominant role in the life of any fire.  Wind can be a firefighters worst enemy, or their best friend.  Today it played the role of friend over much of the fire.

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By mid afternoon today, the wind was blowing out of the west on Grizzly Ridge.  Around the escarpment it blew out of the east up the escarpment.  In the northwest corner, it blew out northwest.  In each of the areas of concern on the Dixie Fire, the wind was light, and blowing back in toward the interior of the fire.  These were upslope dirurnal winds and they basically overpowered what little easterly gradient wind did materialize.

The light winds kept the fire intensity down and kept the smoke from clearing out.  That smoke isn’t fun to breathe and it can keep aircraft grounded because there is not enough visibility for safe flight operations.  But it also tamps down the fire intensity by reducing solar radiation that normally dries and warms the fuels.

Not every piece of the fire saw ideal wind conditions today.  Spotting has been an ongoing problem on the northeast corner between the Caribou Wilderness and Highway 44.  That area of the fire saw northwest winds blowing across their fire lines. They did have an additional spot today even in the light winds, but kept it to one half acre in size.

The fire line on Grizzly Ridge held today much to the relief of the residents from Quincy to Cromberg. The winds were lighter than forecast, and the direction changed to firefighters’ advantage earlier than expected, and firefighters were well prepared.  Instead of chasing spot fires they were able to focus on mopping up to further strengthen the fire line.

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Grizzly Ridge has a hose lay running its entire length according to East Zone Operations Section Chief Ian Satterfield.  That would be about 20 miles of main line with a 100 foot lateral hose about every 200 feet along the main line.

The light winds kept things smokey along and to the east of the escarpment.  The smoke layer prevented the heating in Honey Lake Valley that would have triggered the strong down-slope winds off of the escarpment. The dreaded down-slope winds never materialized today so the fire is still, for the most part, on top of the escarpment.  There are a few fingers inching their way down, but nothing had reached the base of the escarpment by nightfall.

On top of the escarpment, the fire continued burning to the southeast toward the Sugar Fire scar.  The fire did not make any significant runs until late afternoon when a finger took off burning out of the Coyote Hills about five miles northeast of Lake Davis. The fire crossed Forest Road 177 and was moving toward Horton Ridge.  Dozers and engines were pre-positioned for the run and are busy flanking the fire.

There was also some fire growth to the southeast in the Dixie Mountain Game Refuge.

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Structure protection continues in Dixie Valley, Clover Valley, and Grizzly Heights.

In Clover Valley, crews reinforced the dozer line from Turner Ridge to Lake Davis.  Crews are also working to cool down the heavy fuels on the fire line between the northwest corner of Lake Davis and Grizzly Ridge.

Structure protection continues in Genesee,Taylorsville, Greenhorn, and Cromberg.

The fire in the Grizzly Mountain/Devil’s Punch Bowl area to the south of Taylorsville continues to burn on steep inaccessible slopes.  Fire crews have corralled this piece of fire with a series of hand lines and dozer lines.  Eventually they expect to secure the area with tactical firing to remove any un-burned fuels between the fire and their control lines.  They are allowing the fire to back down the slopes on its own for now.

There was no additional spread on the north end of the fire which remains south and west of Highway 44.  Crews were busy building fire line in very heavy fuels with abundant snags in an old fire scar near the northeast corner of Lassen Park.  Fire crews are also improving the structure protection in the Hat Creek and Old Station area.  Operations Section Chief Tony Brownell did confirm that there was no structure loss at Silver Lake.

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The fire grew to 881,086 acres today.  That figure does not include the run the fire made late in the afternoon on the southeast corner of the fire.  Containment is still reported as 55 percent.