Large fires in California have now burned more than one-half million acres, and thousands of people remain evacuated. Nearly 13, 000 firefighters and support personnel are battling the huge blazes. Today and Thursday will be critical in southern California as the winds change to an onshore flow. Winds will be in the 15-30 mph range with possible gusts to 40 mph. This wind shift will result in fires changing direction from west to east. Concern continues to be high that this change will push fires up into areas where severe bug infestations have left large stands of dead and dying timber.
Nationally, four new large fires were reported yesterday, one in Utah, one in Montana, and two in northern California. Firefighters in southern California were able to contain the Cuesta, Otay, and Verdale fires yesterday.
High pressure off the west coast will move westward, allowing winds to turn onshore in southern California. The winds will be stronger over higher elevations, and in the canyons. The higher winds and low relative humidity will create another critical day for fires in southern California. Winds will also increase today over the Great Basin, Rocky Mountain regions, southern New Mexico, west Texas and Oklahoma.
Statistics Daily Statistics 10/29/03
Year-to-Date Statistics 1/1/03 – 10/29/03
Number of New Large Fires 4
Year-to-date Large Fires Contained 6,424
Number of Active Large Fires 15
Fires Contained Yesterday 3
Acres from Active Fires 556,303
Number of Wildland Fire Use (WFU) Fires 4
Acres from WFU Fires 17,773
States Currently Reporting Active Large Fires includes WFU:
* Arizona (1)
* California (14)
* New Mexico (1)
* Montana (1)
* Utah (2)
Arizona Number of Fires: 0 Acres: 0 New Fires: Fires Contained: 0 Number of WFU Fires: 1 WFU acres: 1,800 NEW Rose (Grand Canyon National Park): 1,800 acres at unknown percent contained. This fire is burning 15 miles northeast of North Rim Developed Area. This will be the last report unless significant activity occurs.
California Number of Fires: 12 Acres: 553,393 New Fires: 2 Fires Contained: 3
Number of WFU Fires: 2 WFU acres: 15,743
For general information concerning wildland fires in California, call 909-381-3151.
NEW Whitmore (Shasta-Trinity Unit, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): 1,000 acres at 60 percent contained. The fire is six miles northeast of Whitmore. Active fire behavior was observed. Voluntary evacuations are in effect throughout the area.
Information: Fore more information about the Whitmore fire, call 530-225-2510
NEW Xowannutuk (Redwood National Park): 275 acres at 75 percent contained. The fire is 10 miles east of Orick. Fire activity was minimal.
Padua (Angeles National Forest): 9,446 acres at 50 percent contained. The fire is located six miles northeast of Claremont. Interior islands of fuel burned actively. Evacuation orders remain in effect for the Mt. Baldy Village area, and were lifted for the southern perimeter of the fire.
Information: For more information about the Padua fire, call 626-821-6700 or visit the Padua web site.
Cedar (Cleveland National Forest): 233,192 acres at 15 percent contained. This fire is burning 10 miles east of Ramona. Flame-lengths of more than 200 feet and long range spotting was observed. Several residences and commercial properties were evacuated and structure protection is in place. Interstate 8 and 15 are open, and Highway 67 is closed. Information: For more information about the Cedar fire, call 619-590-3160 or visit the Cedar fire web site.
Cedar fire perimeter
Simi Incident (Ventura County): 97,880 acres at 25 percent contained. This fire is burning five miles north of Simi Valley. The eastern perimeter burned actively yesterday during periods of high winds.
Information: For more information about the Simi Incident, call 805-388-4276.
Old (San Bernardino National Forest): 36,780 acres at 10 percent containment. The fire is located on the north side of San Bernardino. Extreme fire behavior was observed. Structure protection is in place for numerous residences and commercial properties.
Information: For more information about the Old fire, call 909-383-5688 or visit the Pacific Southwest Region web site.
Piru (Los Padres National Forest) 55,812 acres at 20 percent contained. The fire is located 14 miles northwest of Santa Clarita. Firefighters are challenged by red flag conditions, strong winds, difficult terrain, and intense fire behavior. The fire crossed the Sespe River drainage and more than doubled in size. Structure protection is a priority for 300 residences and two commercial properties.
Information: For more information about the Piru fire, visit the Piru Fire incident web site or call 805-961-5770.
Roblar 2 (Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base): 8,592 acres at 85 percent contained. The fire is burning six miles west of Fallbrook. No new information was reported.
Information: For more information about the Roblar 2 fire, call 760-390-2676.
Grand Prix (San Bernardino Unit, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): 59,229 acres at 35 percent contained. The fire is located two miles west of Mira Loma. The fire continues to display extreme fire behavior. Evacuation orders were lifted for the southern perimeter, but are still in effect for Lytle Creek.
Information: For more information about the Grand Prix, call 909-383-5688 or visit the Pacific Southwest Region web site.
Paradise 2 (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park): 1,297 acres at 98 percent contained. This fire is located seven miles northeast of Three Rivers. The fire was previously reported as part of the Kaweah – Kern Complex. Fire activity continues in well developed thermal belts within containment lines.
Information: For more information about the Paradise 2 fire, visit the National Park Service’s Fire News web site
Paradise (Monte Vista Unit, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): 40,000 acres at 20 percent contained. This fire is located six miles northeast of Escondido. Fire behavior was influenced by the nearby Cedar fire. Structure protection remains in place for several residences.
Information: For more information about the Paradise, call 619-590-3160 or visit the Paradise fire web site.
Mountain (Riverside Unit, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): 9,890 acres at 85 percent contained. This fire is located 13 miles northeast of Temecula. Fire activity diminished yesterday. All roads in the area are open.
Information: For more information about the Mountain fire, call 909-940-6985 or visit the Mountain fire web site.
Kaweah – Kern Complex (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park): This 11,643-acre lightning Wildland Fire Use (WFU) fire is being managed to accomplish resource objectives. This fire was previously reported, began on July 28, and is located 15 miles east of Grant Cove in Kings Canyon National Park.
Information: For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Fire News web site
Albanita/Hooker (Sequoia National Forest): This 4,100 acre lightning Wildland Fire Use (WFU) fire is being managed to accomplish resource objectives. The fire is located ten miles north-northwest of Kennedy Meadows.
New Mexico Number of Fires: 1 Acres: 250 New Fires: 0 Fires Contained: 0
Ski Run (Lincoln National Forest): 250 acres at 10 percent contained. The fire is six miles northwest of Ruidoso. The fire burned actively and residences were evacuated. Reduction in size is due to more accurate mapping.
Montana Number of Fires: 1 Acres: 100 New Fires: 1 Fires Contained: 0
Cliff Spring (Custer National Forest): 100 acres at 10 percent contained. The fire is eight miles northeast of Ashland. Fire activity was limited to heavier ground fuel with minimal acreage gain.
Utah Number of Fires: 1 Acres: 1,500 New Fires: 1 Fires Contained: 0 Number of WFU Fires: 1 Acres: 230
Cherry Creek 2 (Uinta National Forest): 1,500 acres at 15 percent contained. The fire is ten miles east/northeast of Springville. An active flame front and occasional uphill runs were observed.
Swift Creek (Ashley National Forest): This 230-acre lightning-caused fire is being managed to accomplish resource objectives. It is located 30 miles north of Duchesne.
LOS ANGELES – Firefighters faced a critical showdown yesterday against the mammoth wildfires burning across tinder-dry Southern California as they tried to save mountain communities surrounded by flames and take advantage of a drop in temperatures to go on the attack.
Seventeen fires moving across California have blackened about 600,000 acres – an area nearly the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island – over the course of a week and incinerated 2,000 homes, destroying entire suburban neighborhoods.
Officials said that at least 18 people have died in one of the state’s worst wildfire seasons and grimly predicted that more charred bodies would be uncovered when the flames were finally doused and rescue workers moved in.
Officials were especially worried about the border area with Mexico, a rural area used as a passage into the United States by illegal immigrants.
“We haven’t seen this intensity of fire and number of residents being affected ever before,” Andrea Tuttle, director of California Department of Forestry, said. “This is an extraordinary 100-year event. … This is Mother Nature’s natural fire cycle and when you get winds like this it will overwhelm, for awhile, our ability to deal with them.”
Gov. Gray Davis estimated that by the time all of the fires were out the cost to California – which is already reeling from profound financial woes that prompted voters to throw him out of office – would be nearly $2 billion.
Officials said a cold front moving in from the north yesterday was expected to give them cooler weather – a key element in battling the wildfires – but could also prove dangerous as accompanying high winds collided with hot air and created unstable conditions.
They declined to speculate when the largest fires now threatening mountain communities in San Diego and San Bernardino counties would be under control.
THREE DAYS WITHOUT SLEEP
The biggest worry remained the so-called Old Fire, which had marched through the San Bernardino Mountains and surrounded 16 small mountain communities about 70 miles east of Los Angeles.
Some 40,000 residents poured off the mountain in the face of a towering firestorm that caught crews off guard and raced toward the resort towns of Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear.
The flames found abundant fuel in thick underbrush and trees that were matchstick-dry and infested with bark beetles.
In San Diego County, where two major fires have destroyed more than 500 homes and killed 12 people, officials were forced to rest exhausted crews who had been on the fire lines for three days without sleep. The area’s two main fires were lapping toward each other and threatening to merge into one superblaze, officials said.
President Bush has declared a state of emergency in four counties, and Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger was to be in Washington, D.C. to meet congressional leaders yesterday to ask for the federal funds triggered by Bush’s declaration of a state of emergency.
Davis said additional help was expected to begin arriving yesterday from states neighboring California, including eight C-130 Air National Guard tanker planes, which would all be sent to battle the so-called Simi Valley Fire, which was burning just outside Los Angeles and threatening several thousands of multimillion-dollar homes.