Several lightning caused fires are already extinguished in the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Others are being put out, as firefighters are freed up from one fire they move onto the next one. This week, twenty one lightning caused fires were discovered. Storms are no longer moving through the area, however, lightning caused fires can go undetected for days or weeks until forest materials dry enough to allow flames to spread to the surface.
The largest of the lightning fires is the Shirley Complex, which includes the Shirley Fire, the Tenant Fire, and six smaller fires on the Kern River Ranger District. The Shirley Fire was fully contained at noon on August 22nd. When these fires were ignited by lightning on Sunday August 18th, they had extreme potential for growth and were threatening several communities. However, rain on Monday night, followed by aggressive firefighting, kept the Shirley Fire and the Tenant Fire small, at less than 500 acres each.
There will continue to be interior burning within the fire perimeters, and smoke will continue to be visible, but these fires are no longer a threat to local communities. The forest closure for the areas around the fires will remain in place temporarily since hazards such as falling trees and smoldering stumps are still present and crews will still be working on mop up and rehabilitation. Highway 178 remains closed through the Kern River Canyon due to mud and rock slides, unrelated to the fires. Check with Caltrans on their website http://www.dot.ca.gov/ or by calling 1-800-427-7623 (year-round) for latest road information.
Other lightning caused fires on the Forest, in the Giant Sequoia National Monument include the Boole Fire on the Hume Lake Ranger District. In the Western Divide Ranger District, firefighters have extinguished the Blue, Pack, Black, Windy, Trout, and Zach fires. There is still mop-up work to be done to fully extinguish the Creek, and Deep fires, firefighters are assigned to complete this task.
Visitors to the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument are reminded that, despite an occasional rain shower from a passing storm, fire restrictions are still in effect prohibiting campfires. These restrictions will continue until there is a change in weather bringing cooler temperatures and enough widespread rainfall to significantly reduce the threat of damaging wildfire. In 2008, fire restrictions were cancelled in mid-October thanks to a change in the weather; let’s hope for that change to come earlier in 2013.
Under current fire restrictions, stoves and lanterns with shut-off valves that use gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed only in authorized campsites if the operator possesses a valid California Campfire Permit. Free campfire permits and a list of these authorized locations are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/sequoia/ or at any Forest Service office. Visitors, especially those who plan to stay overnight, should come prepared for inclement weather; an unexpected storm is not uncommon late in the summer. Storms can bring gusts of cold temperatures, lightning, and sporadic showers that could dampen a visitor’s weekend. Please come prepared with warm blankets, extra food and water, and let someone know of your travel plans.
Most single trees with limited ground fire.
New lightning caused fires continue to appear as the fuels dry out. Anticipate more fires to be discovered over next several days.
Safely put out all fires as they are discovered with available resources.