By Michael Condon
Former Fire and Aviation Chief for the Plumas National Forest
Special to Plumas News
Firefighters are making progress. Lighter than forecast winds gave firefighters a little bit of a break yesterday. The fire spread was less than anticipated, especially along the escarpment where fire behavior was much more moderate than is typical for that area. Evacuation orders for the Herlong area were reduced to an evacuation warning.
A map of the active part of the Dixie Fire in Plumas County looks like a huge inverted triangle. The legs of the triangle are about 20 miles long on the west, over 30 miles on the east, and the base, at the top of this inverted triangle is over 40 miles long.
That is more than 90 miles, as the crow flies. If you consider all the ins and outs and undulations of a fire’s edge, that leaves well over a hundred miles of fire edge. Most of that fire wasn’t there a few days ago.
The west leg of this inverted triangle runs along Grizzly Ridge from Taylorsville to Lake Davis. This leg has fire line constructed, an extensive hose lay and has been holding well.
The longest leg of the triangle, the northern piece, runs from Genesee Valley east to the edge of the escarpment. Fire crews have a fire line around the first third of this piece and are continuing to mop it up.
The second piece of this northern leg runs along the Walker Fire scar. There is not much fuel left after the Walker Fire so there is very little spread or active burning here. This piece of the fire will probably be left for the snow to extinguish in a couple of months.
The third and final piece of the northern leg connects the Walker Fire scar with the escarpment. Fire crews have built a dozer line along this piece.
That leaves the southeastern leg of the triangle. The piece running from Grizzly Ridge, across the north end of Lake Davis and on to Turner Ridge and Clover Valley is contained by fire line. Fire fighters have lots of mop up and fire line improvement to do along this piece, but the real work lies between here and the escarpment.
Late yesterday afternoon, the smoke lifted and there was enough wind for the fire to make a push to the south out of the Coyote Hills. The fire ran to the south on Horton Ridge which is to east of Clover Valley. Crews worked through the night building line around this piece, building contingency lines to stop further spread to the south, and increasing structure protection in Dixie Valley and the Grizzly Ranch subdivision north of Portola.
On top of the escarpment, the fire continues to burn to the east toward the Sugar Fire burn scar.
The fire burning on the escarpment continues to advance toward Highway 395, west of Oliver Lane. Crews and engines are to working to build fire lines on both sides of the escarpment fire to prevent further lateral spread along the escarpment. Dozer lines have been constructed behind residences along Highway 395 and fire engines and hand crews are prepositioned to provide structure protection.
An inversion will hold smoke over the area and limit winds speeds for most of the morning. In the afternoon the inversion will start to break. Winds will be light, generally less than 10 miles an hour. Fire behavior analysts are predicting active fire in the afternoon but spotting will be limited. Winds will initially be out of the southeast and shift to southwest by late afternoon. The direction of fire spread will be influenced more by terrain features and less by wind direction.
Yesterday firefighters welcomed over 200 military personnel who had just completed their fire training. They are expecting another complement today. With the incredible number of miles of fire line to patrol and mop up, assistance from the military is a huge boost for firefighters. These are not the first military personnel to join in the effort. Since the very beginning, the military has been supporting air operations, logistical support, law enforcement, and firefighting operations.
The Grizzly Fire fire is now 885,954 acres in size. That is an increase of 17,173 acres since yesterday morning. The fire remains 55 percent contained.