By Michael Condon
Former Fire and Aviation Chief for the Plumas National Forest
Special to Plumas News
Firefighters were busy across the Dixie Fire today. They were busy gaining ground over most of the fire as the active fire was confined to a single area today.
Gusting southwest winds pushed the northeast corner of the fire today in Shasta County. The fire in that area has been burning through an old fire scar. It’s a difficult place to fight fire because old snags and down trees create very hot pockets of fire and frequent spots. At the same time vast fields of young snow brush burn slowly and very rocky terrain making fire line construction difficult. Fire crews have been working this area for several days, but progress has been slow.
This afternoon the winds picked up and the fire managed to hook around the old burn and made a run through fuels that burned much more quickly.
The fire crossed the Pacific Crest/Nobles Trails that had been widened to serve as the primary fire line. The fire burned to the north covering about a mile of ground to the top of Badger Mountain. The fire is still 7 miles from Old Station and 6 miles from Big Springs.
According to West Zone Operations Section Chief Tony Brownell, a mobile fire retardant base will be set up in Old Station tomorrow. This will allow helicopters to fill their buckets by dipping fire retardant from large portable tanks.
Fire retardant is much more effective than water at knocking down fire plus it has the advantage of coating material and preventing or slowing fire long after water would have evaporated.
Chief Brownell said they will also be adding water tenders that can spray the retardant around structures.
Elsewhere around the fire, crews were very busy knocking down hots spots, improving fire lines, extending hose lays, and mopping up the fire’s edge. But the fire was not moving in any of the problem areas.
Firefighters in the northeast corner of the fire were able to mop up the 150-acre spot fire near Bogard and for the first time they reported no spot fires over their line.
Fire on the escarpment made a hard push toward Highway 395 late yesterday. Firefighters engaged in an aggressive fire fight with the help of multiple aircraft to keep the fire from burning structures and crossing the highway. Today, that fire was much less active and crews were busy mopping up. They are still scouting to see if there is a way for hot shot crews to build a fire line on the escarpment fire’s northern edge. Today they kept that northern edge cooled down with helicopter bucket drops.
All of the primary fire line around Dixie Valley held today. The only active burning was on the interior of the fire.
Firefighters are using masticators to build a wide fire line along the road to the south out of Dixie Valley. They are improving multiple lateral lines off of the road into the Sugar Fire and Dotta Fire scars in case the fire should burn past their primary fire line. That primary line still needs much work to cool the edge down before firefighters will be confident it will hold according to East Zone Operations Section Chief Jeff Suber.
The winds over the next couple of days will continue to be light in the morning. They will increase to around 10 mph with gusts to 20 mph in the afternoon. These afternoon winds will continue to challenge fire fighters.
Less smoke blowing over the Honey Lake Valley could lead to more heating that will draw air off of the escarpment increasing the possibility of the notorious down slope winds.
Depending on which weather forecast you rely on, we may or may not have frontal passage that could lead to some north winds and possible lightning storms later in the week. It is too early to tell for sure, but you can bet the fire meteorologist and fire managers will be watching this closely.
The fire grew to 919,300 acres today, an increase of 1,721 acres from this morning. It remains 59 percent contained.