As windy weather with low humidity keeps most of Northern California under a red flag warning, thousands of firefighters and emergency personnel are still on the front lines of blazes. Cal Fire has reported that 25 major fires continue to burn across the state, while 17 new flares started and were contained Saturday.
Due to the critical fire conditions, which will persist through Monday, a small grass fire began in Napa County. The Glass Fire was ignited early Sunday morning and has rapidly grown to 1,200 acres by 1 p.m., according to Cal Fire. The fire, which is 0% contained, is only 4 miles east of Calistoga and forced evacuations. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Cal Fire officials have warned residents of Northern California to be ready to evacuate at any moment.
“With Red Flag conditions in many parts of the state over the next few days, fires in these areas can spread rapidly. Making quick and safe evacuation is critical to protecting your life and your family,” Cal Fire said in a Sunday morning update.
The weather warning continues through Monday across much of Northern California, with gusty winds and low humidity creating critical fire weather conditions. In Southern California, a fire weather watch is in effect due to Santa Ana winds and low humidity, creating critical fire weather conditions for Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the mountains near San Diego and the Santa Clarita Valley.
Across California, high temperatures add to weather concerns for possible fire activity. The gusty winds have the potential to further spread existing fires, as well as potential rapid growth for new blazes.
The National Weather Service said that the warning in place for the North and East Bay areas that began on Saturday evening, denotes “critical” wildfire weather danger, due to wind gusts that could approach 50 mph. The NWS also has a fire weather watch, one step below a red flag warning, in place for interior Northern California, including the western and northern parts of the Sacramento Valley along with most of the Sierra Nevada foothills, that started Saturday morning.
Pacific Gas and Electric announced Saturday evening that about 15,000 people will have their lights turned off after midnight, the first stage of a larger planned blackout in advance of fast-moving winds. A total of 89,000 PG&E customers may deliberately lose power this weekend, with the first 15,000 residing in areas familiar with the company’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs, which are implemented when fire danger is forecast to reach critical levels.
Parts of Butte, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties can expect the power to start dropping off between midnight and 2 a.m. Sunday, when Diablo winds coming in from the east in the Sacramento Valley are expected to gain traction.
PG&E officials said this “weather event” will be localized in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and customers in the Bay Area and southern parts of PG&E’s service area will not be affected.
Many of the largest fires currently burning sparked in mid-August during a powerful thunderstorm that dropped lightning across the Bay Area, the valley and the foothills. Another serious blaze, the Creek Fire, ignited in early September.
A strong system of extremely gusty winds that peaked around Sept. 8 in Northern California led fire activity to flare up, especially on the North Complex burning mainly in Butte and Plumas counties. The southwest corner of that fire grew with furious speed that day, jumped the Feather River and ultimately killed at least 15 people in small towns a few miles from Lake Oroville.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates national fire response, 44,174 wildfires this year have burned 7.1 million acres in the U.S. as of Friday. The majority of the acreage burned has been in California, as Cal Fire said in its Friday update that since Jan. 1 “well over 8,000 wildfires ... have burned over 3.6 million acres in California.”
Since Aug. 15, with the start of a series of lightning storms to cross Northern California, there have been 26 fatalities and over 7,000 structures destroyed statewide, Cal Fire said in a Sunday update. Officials said 17,000 firefighters and other personnel are on the front lines of 25 major fires as of Sunday, and contained 17 new fire starts on Saturday.
Red flag warnings and current wildfires
Map: JAYSON CHESLER | Sources: U.S. Department of the Interior, IRWIN, NIFC, NASA, NOAA and Esri. Updated every 15 minutes.
Here is a list of major fire incidents burning in California and their status, last updated 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday | Size: 873,079 acres (1,364.2 square miles)) | Containment: 43%
The August Complex started more than a month ago at Mendocino National Forest and has grown to become by far the largest wildfire in recorded California history. It has burned vegetation in Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity, Tehama, Glenn and Lake counties.
The complex is reportedly 43% contained, with U.S. Forest Service officials downgrading the containment figure Friday morning by 5% from the 45% reported Thursday evening, before increasing by 3% on Saturday and staying the same going into Sunday.
“Firefighters are doing everything they can to keep the fire south of State Route 36,” incident commander Norm McDonald wrote in a Saturday update ahead of Sunday’s red flag warning for the area. “Aircraft will assist the firefighters as they work to secure the northeast corner near Forest Glen. Strategic firing operations will continue to reduce unburned fuels between the highway and the fire. This will decrease the intensity of the fire as it approaches the road, and support firefighters in their efforts to hold the fire south of Route 36.”
The fire, which sparked Aug. 16 due to lightning strikes, is burning a little over 100 miles northwest of Sacramento and at various points in the past month, significant amounts of its smoke have blown into the capital region.
Smoke as of Thursday was blowing from the west and southwest, pushing smoke mainly northeast and east of the fire into the northern reaches of the Central Valley, the Forest Service said. Wind patterns are expected to shift this weekend. There will be breezy winds blowing north to south, potentially carrying smoke further south into the valley.
North Complex (including West Zone)
Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday | Size: 305,881 acres (477.9 square miles) | Containment: 78%
The North Complex, which was also ignited by lightning in mid-August, soared in size earlier in September, when gusts in excess of 45 mph caused what was then known as the Bear Fire — now designated as the West Zone of the North Complex — to jump the Middle Fork of the Feather River.
The West Zone killed 15 Butte County residents in towns just north and northeast of Lake Oroville during that devastating run, which prompted urgent evacuation orders Sept. 8 overnight into Sept. 9. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office on Friday morning identified the 15th victim as a 71-year-old Berry Creek woman.
Of the 15 confirmed deaths, 13 were Berry Creek residents and two lived in Feather Falls a few miles away. Officials now say the West Zone has destroyed about 2,250 structures, many of them homes.
In the two weeks since the West Zone erupted, calmer weather conditions have assisted crews of at times more than 3,000 firefighters working to contain the North Complex, allowing for good progress. However, thick smoke — from the North Complex itself and blowing in from other fires, including the August Complex — has periodically made visibility in the area too poor for aircraft to support ground operations.
The West Zone of the fire complex is reported at 84,595 acres and is 78% contained, Cal Fire’s Butte Unit said in a Sunday morning update. About 10,000 structures are still considered at risk.
Butte County sheriff’s officials continue to gradually downgrade or lift evacuation orders and warnings due to the North Complex. Authorities on Thursday evening reduced an order for the area surrounding Foreman Creek Recreation Area, along Highway 162 from the Canyon Creek Bridge to Whispering Chapel Lane, to a voluntary warning. Evacuation maps and more detailed information are available at the Butte County Sheriff’s Office website.
The North Complex, altogether, is the fifth-largest wildfire in recorded California history, dating back to the start of reliable record keeping in 1932.
Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday | Size: 1,667 acres (2.6 square miles) | Containment: 70%
The Fork Fire, burning since Sept. 8 in the Eldorado National Forest, started in the Crystal Basin near Gerle Creek under critical fire weather conditions. With rifle season for deer hunting starting Saturday, authorities urged visitors to the area to use caution.
The size and containment of the fire has remained largely the same since earlier this week. Forest officials said in a Friday morning update that “crews continued work on hotspots in the Rubicon River canyon near South Fork Bridge trail. Forest and fire managers would like people to be aware that while the fire closure area was reduced, there is still fire activity in the area. Please be extra careful driving and look for heavy vehicles on the road.”
The burn area is within a stand “with nearly 100% tree mortality,” mainly from the 2014 King Fire burn scar.
Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday | Size: 302,870 acres (473.2 square miles) | Containment: 39%
The Creek Fire, burning along both sides of the San Joaquin River near Shaver Lake, Mammoth Pool, Big Creek and Huntington Lake in parts of Fresno and Madera counties, has grown to become the sixth-largest wildfire in state history. As of Sunday morning, the fire grew significantly while containment remained the same.
The fire, which ignited Sept. 4, continues to prompt mandatory evacuation orders and voluntary advisories in the two counties, detailed maps of which are available here.
“Hot temperatures this weekend will lead to more drying of fuels allowing them to increase their ability to ignite and carry combustion, and winds will begin to come from the North, opposite of the past few days,” Cal Fire wrote in a Thursday evening incident report.
Updated: 11:30 a.m. Sunday | Size: 114,103 acres (178.3 square miles) | Containment: 65%
The Bobcat Fire has prompted numerous evacuation orders and warnings in Los Angeles County, Forest Service officials said in their latest update. As of Sunday morning, the fire grew very slightly, while containment increased by 4%.
The fire sparked at Angeles National Forest on Sept. 6. Nearly 1,600 personnel are assigned as of Sunday morning.
In its latest incident report, the Forest Service said the wildfire is “mainly smoldering and creeping within containment lines.”
On Friday, officials lifted evacuation orders for portions of the Antelope Valley, but Paradise Springs area remains closed. The fire has destroyed 124 structures.
Updated: 11:45 a.m. Sunday | Size: 128,417 acres (200.7 square miles) | Containment: 62%
The Dolan Fire continues to burn in Monterey County after starting Aug. 19, near Dolan Road and Highway 1 about 15 miles southeast of Big Sur. As of Sunday morning, the fire’s size remained the same as the day before, but containment increased by 5%, showing promising strides toward containment.
The fire is burning near Los Padres National Forest. The Forest Service said in a Saturday morning update that the fire held within containment lines amid breezy conditions on Thursday and Friday.
It has destroyed at least 14 structures.
El Dorado Fire
Updated: 11:45 a.m. Sunday | Size: 22,666 acres (35.4 square miles) | Containment: 92%
Crews have made good progress on the El Dorado Fire, which is burning outside Yucaipa in San Bernardino County. While the fire grew only 50 acres going into Sunday morning, containment increased by nearly 10% with the fire now nearing full containment.
One firefighter, identified this week as Charles Morton of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot squad, died fighting the wildfire, which was notoriously caused by pyrotechnics used for a gender reveal party, authorities said earlier this month.
All evacuation orders for mountain communities impacted by the fire were lifted Thursday, according to Cal Fire.
Updated: 11:45 a.m. Sunday | Size: 153,850 acres (240.4 square miles) | Containment: 27%
The Slater Fire, which started Sept. 7, is being managed along with the 8,173-acre Devil Fire, which began Sept. 9. The fires are burning on the Klamath, Six Rivers and Rogue-Siskiyou National Forests in Siskiyou and Del Norte counties, as well as in Oregon’s Josephine County.
As of a Sunday morning update, the fire had grown slightly while containment also increased by a small amount. While there has been a little rain in the region, officials reported that it did not reduce the fire danger.
Fire behavior analysts hiked portions of the burn area and used drone flights to evaluate the blaze, U.S. Forest Service officials said in a Friday morning update. “With the recent precipitation, fire behavior decreased, and many areas are only showing a few smokes. Efforts will focus on mopping up, improving existing line and constructing line along the east and west flanks of the fire.”
Authorities said four additional crews, including the Rogue River Hotshots, and 15 engines will arrive at the fire Saturday.
Evacuation orders remain in effect for areas that were heavily damaged in Indian Creek, officials said. An evacuation advisory remains in place for the Seiad Valley and along the Highway 96-Klamath River corridor from Seiad to Thompson Creek.
About 2,400 structures remain threatened, and the fires have destroyed 438 structures — 197 of them homes, mostly in the Happy Camp area.
SQF Complex Fire
Updated: 11:45 a.m. Sunday | Size: 149,888 acres (234.2 square miles) | Containment: 47%
The Castle and Shotgun fires, burning in Sequoia and Kings National Parks and comprising the SQF Complex, have destroyed 214 structures since it was started by lightning strikes Aug. 18 east of Giant Sequoia National Monument in Tulare County.
In a Sunday morning update, officials from Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service in unified command said higher humidity levels moderated fire behavior on Saturday, reducing fire intensity. “Throughout the night the fire continued to creep through unburned interior islands at a slow pace. Continued heat in the heavy dead down and dead standing logs that remain close to the control thins, still pose a significant threat.”
Joining the ranks this week were 100 firefighters from Guadalajara, Mexico, who arrived Wednesday. Crews will continue to keep structures protected in the areas around the Peppermint Work Center, Camp Nelson, Pierpoint, Ponderosa, Rogers Camp, Mountain Aire, and the Tule Indian Reservation. Personnel will also be watching the weather, as concerns through Saturday will be focused around poor visibility due to the higher smoke concentrations.
Red Salmon Fire
Updated: 11:45 a.m. Sunday | Size: 110,113 acres (172.1 square miles) | Containment: 31%
Firefighters continue to monitor the month-old blaze burning in the Klamath, Six Rivers, and Shasta-Trinity National Forests within Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity counties. Crews have contained the northwest and west sides of the fire from the Whitney Peak area on the north side to Box Camp on the west side, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
As of Sunday morning, the fire has grown very slightly from the day before, while containment remains the same.
Along the southern edges of the fire, personnel “are successfully conducting firing operations and improving roads to protect the Hoopa Valley Reservation and the communities of Willow Creek and Denny.” The report added that structure protection in the Forks of Salmon area continues to be a priority.
Firefighters said they are anticipating traces of rainfall in the burn zone this weekend.
Large fires nearing full containment
Several large wildfire incidents, including two of the biggest by acreage in recorded state history, have had limited fire activity in recent weeks, and crews are continuing mop-up as they approach 100% containment.
Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit reports the LNU Lightning Complex, which burned 363,220 acres (567.5 square miles) in those three counties plus parts of Yolo and Solano counties, is 98% contained. The large wildfire, another that sparked due to lightning in mid-August, killed at least five people, injured five others and destroyed hundreds of homes, authorities said.
SCU Lightning Complex, which is the second-largest wildfire in state history, continues to be monitored by fire crews. The fire, which started Aug. 18 by lightning, has burned 396,624 acres (619.7 square miles) in Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and was 98% contained. More than 200 structures were destroyed by the blaze and, early on, six people were injured.
Butte/Tehama/Glenn Lightning Complex, which was managed as two zones some 40 miles apart, has remained smoldering in Tehama and Glenn counties for a month. The Tehama/Glenn Zone has burned 19,609 acres (30.6 square miles) and was at 97% containment, fire officials said in their latest update. Fourteen structures were destroyed.