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Where I Stand: What I observed on my drive to Westwood and back and the danger that looms

By Ken Donnell

Contributor to Plumas News


I was encouraged by what I witnessed of the fire activity yesterday, Aug. 15, on my now daily fire-line-tour from Quincy to North Arm and up to Hamilton Branch, Clear Creek and Westwood.  Winds were mostly calm, smoke was heavy, and the sound of chainsaws and bulldozers echoed through the hills and valleys.  Plus, there were lots of post-fire crews taking down hazard trees and power lines.  A spokesperson for PG&E confirmed there are currently 400 + PG&E personnel working on fire recovery and power restoration.


The one active fire zone today I witnessed was on the north side of Highway 36 just outside of Westwood and westward to the junction with A-13.  Low intensity fires were burning up to the northern edge of the roadside in most places along this corridor of Highway 36, and fire crews were regularly stationed to suppress hot spots, and prevent the fire crossing the highway.  Plus there were dozer clearings approximately 100 feet deep along much of the south side of the highway along this corridor.  It is clear that firefighters are making exceptional preparations for possible north winds which are predicted to arrived today and Tuesday.    At this moment I am confident for the safety of Westwood, Clear Creek, and Hamilton Branch.  But such confidence depends upon the direction and force of the winds in the coming days.


Everyone I spoke with expressed concerns about the predicted change in the winds starting Monday and continuing through Tuesday, and maybe into Wednesday.  Strong north winds will mostly blow the fire back onto itself.  This could be good if this helps to starve the fire for fuels.  But the big concern is that the southern flanks of every section of the Dixie Fire could be re-started by these winds, and these newly active southern flanks could threaten many local communities, including Quincy, Genesee Valley, North Valley road near Greenville, Crescent Mills, plus Clear Creek, Hamilton Branch, and Westwood.  Even sections of the fire near Bucks Lake and Meadow Valley could revive and march southward.  All of the communities in southern, Central, and Western Plumas county, plus some in Lassen county, remain surrounded by an uncontrolled and volatile Dixie wildfire, and where unpredictable fire behavior has become normal.  


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