By Debra Moore
What’s happening with the North Complex Fire? Remember that fire that dominated our lives beginning Aug. 17 following unprecedented lightning strikes throughout the state?
Well the fifth deadliest and fifth most destructive fire in California history is now 98 percent contained as of today, Nov. 18, after remaining at 96 percent for weeks. Why not 100 percent following yesterday and today’s rains? There are still some heat areas around the penstocks in the Feather River Canyon and hazard trees next to road. But according to the Forest Service, the 100 percent containment bar will be reached very soon – by Nov. 24 according to the latest estimate.
The North Complex began with the Claremont, Bear and Sheep fires. The latter broke out on the Plumas National Forest, but quickly pushed into Lassen County forcing evacuations around Susanville and destroying several homes. (It was broken off from the North Complex and handled separately).
The Claremont Fire broke out Aug. 17 as the result of a lightning strike. It forced evacuations and threatened the communities of East Quincy, La Porte Road, the Highway 70 corridor, Spring Garden, Greenhorn, Cromberg and Sloat. Only one outbuilding was lost on this portion of the fire.
The Bear Fire also broke out Aug. 17 following a lightning strike. Initially it was left to burn because it wasn’t immediately a threat to people or property; it was in steep, rugged terrain; and resources were scarce due to the fires burning across the state. So though it held at 50 acres for a while, it grew to over 12,000 acres and threatened the communities of Bucks Lake, Haskins Valley, Tollgate and Meadow Valley.
The two fires merged and the North Complex made a run into Butte County on Sept. 9 where it claimed 16 lives and destroyed or damaged 2,455 structures. It forced the evacuation of several communities and caused the area to suffer the worst air quality in the country for weeks. It grew to 318,935 acres.
As of today, Nov. 18, 59 crew members remain assigned to the fire. At its height, there were 3,100 crew members assigned, though that number paled into comparison of what it would have been during a “normal” fire year. The North Complex had to fight for resources as fires raged across California, making this the worst fire year in state history.