Plumas County’s fire has moved into Lassen County as it enters its second week, making it the largest wildfire in Northern California and garnering regional and national attention.
The Walker Fire broke out about noon on Wednesday, Sept. 4, in Genesee Valley, 11 miles from Taylorsville, and was reported at 3 to 5 acres. By Tuesday morning, Sept. 10, the fire had grown to 47,340 acres, moved into Lassen County and was 12 percent contained. (These figures were current as this newspaper went to press, visit plumasnews.com and lassennews.com for the latest information.)
The fire forced evacuations in areas of Genesee and Antelope Lake, as well as Milford in Lassen. An informational meeting was held in the town of Janesville on Sunday attended by hundreds, as concerned residents feared evacuation there as well.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, unlike other fires that broke out last week and were attributed to lightning.
Smoke from the fire could be seen from throughout Plumas and neighboring counties, even from Reno, causing multiple calls from residents who thought evacuation from their communities was imminent.
The area in which the fire is burning in Plumas County is described as rugged and steep, making it difficult to establish a fire line around the perimeter. But as of Monday morning, lines had been established and seemed to be holding.
Supervisor Kevin Goss, whose home was in the shadow of the fire, said on Saturday night that the fire looked like it could threaten the North Arm area of Taylorsville, but by Sunday morning the area appeared to be in the clear.
“There were some nervous people last night,” Goss said during an interview Sunday morning. “They were told to have their trailers packed and be ready to go.”
He was somewhat relieved because firefighters had built dozer lines to protect Genesee residences, should the fire burn back in that direction, but the fire moved away instead.
As of Sunday morning, the need for evacuations shifted to Lassen County. Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said that he had been working with the Lassen County Sheriff as the fire’s path continued northeasterly.
“We will continue to provide support and resources,” Hagwood said.
A reported 1,096 personnel are now fighting the fire from the ground and the air, up from 550 last week and 825 earlier this week.
For comparison, the Minerva Fire that threatened Quincy in August 2017 burned 4,310 acres and had 1,660 personnel assigned to it.
A base camp was established at the Taylorsville campground, with a second location being established in Lassen.
Of the 75 or so who faced evacuation in Plumas County, Hagwood said that only one couple needed assistance in finding a place to stay and his office worked with the crisis center to provide shelter. In Lassen County, an evacuation center was set up at the fairgrounds in Susanville. Milford has a population of 167, while Janesville’s is 1,408.
As this newspaper went to press, there were no reports of structures being destroyed by the fire. One firefighter suffered a minor injury. A Forest Service spokeswoman said that fire line was holding in Plumas. Sheriff Hagwood reported that “Everything pretty stabilized for us here in Plumas. It’s settling down in our county.”