Keeping an eye on the Castle
The size of the Castle Fire portion of the complex is 122,835 acres (as of Thursday morning, Sept. 17). New fire growth in the preceding 24-hour period was more than 9,000 acres. From east to west, the fire is more than 25 miles across. Imagine a fire burning everything from Three Rivers to Visalia. In one day last weekend, it consumed eight miles of forest.
Wednesday was the fourth day of substantial fire growth. The fire has been burning for nearly a month; containment is at 12 percent.
South-southwest winds caused gusts within the fire perimeter and were stronger on the ridge tops and the north-south river drainages. Relative humidity has been poor this week, which means active fire around the clock; no rest for the weary. The western perimeter of the fire is experiencing the most fire growth.
It is forecast that through Saturday, Sept. 19, the fire will be extremely active. During this time, it is expected that fire growth will expand significantly day and night. Air quality due to smoke is expected to deteriorate even more through Saturday.
On the south side of the Castle Fire, at least 150 structures have been destroyed with more than 3,000 still threatened. Crews are preparing for the fire’s likely movement toward Ponderosa, Tule Indian Reservation and, as stated above, into Sequoia National Park.
The active area of the Castle Fire that Three Rivers residents are closely watching is the northernmost portion on its west side that is now up and over Dennison Ridge, which is also the south boundary of Sequoia National Park. There are two sequoia groves in its path: Dillonwood to the east and Garfield to the north.
Evacuations: Three Rivers residents in the southernmost part of the community (upper South Fork Drive and Cherokee Oaks subdivision) have been evacuated as a safety precaution.
On Wednesday, September 16, 2020, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office also issued a voluntary evacuation notice for the cabin communities in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. These include Cabin Cove, Silver City, and all of Mineral King. A voluntary evacuation means be packed and ready to leave if at the notice is elevated to “mandatory.”
The week in fire: A week ago, fire was miles away from the Dennison Ridge area. Then a hot spot began near Moses Mountain. Now that entire area is encompassed by the main part of the Castle Fire. But the main portion of the fire is still south of the North Fork of the Tule River. A fire did start on the north side of the river, and that’s the portion, not yet connected with the main fire but dangerous all the same, that is pushing north and by Wednesday evening, Sept. 16, had reached the crest of Dennison Ridge and enter the south boundary of Sequoia National Park.
To the immediate east of this area is the Dillonwood Grove of giant sequoias, the southernmost grove in Sequoia National Park. The Castle Fire has thrown a couple hot spots into this area. It is also making a push north toward Dennison Ridge.
Currently, the fire is being fought on the ridgeline. A fuel break is being constructed and back burns will be conducted.
If the fire crests Dennison Ridge, it then begins its push down to the South Fork drainage. If it continued its northerly progress downslope, it would enter the Garfield Grove, which was the first grove of giant sequoias protected by being included in the original 1890 boundaries of Sequoia National Park. Beyond this grove of Big Trees is the South Fork river and, jumping that, it’s an onward progression up to Case Mountain and the Salt Creek area.
Decision-makers: As of this week, CAL FIRE Incident Management Team 6, United States Forest Service Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 1, and the National Park Service joined in unified command for the SQF Complex. Here is the contact information for the WEST side of the Castle Fire (which is what is affecting Three Rivers):
Fire Information Line: 916-618-3195
To receive email updates: https://tinyurl.com/WestCastleFire
Evacuation Info: www.alerttc.com
Cal Fire reminds the public to stay vigilant on current fire conditions. Adhere to road closures and any evacuation notices. Drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel. There will be smoke in the respective areas as firefighters continue firefighting operations. If at any time you feel unsafe, call 911.