Fire officials say the August Complex is nearing full containment and crews are transitioning into roles of monitoring and mop-up.
Now the largest wildfire in California history, the August Complex passed a million acres in October, but appears to have met its match in southern Trinity County. While firefighters were able to keep the fire away from many residences on the east side of Ruth Lake over the last month, other areas, including the community of Three Forks, were destroyed.
Brett Waters, a planning and operations section chief on the August Complex, said Saturday that crews have had a couple good days working the fires. He said crews hoped to have full containment in the Van Duzen Road area in a couple days and were trying to stay ahead of winds that were predicted for Sunday.
“That area is in good shape, fully contained,” he said of the areas around and north of Ruth Lake, “and we’re working on water barring some of those dozer lines and hand lines so that when you do have your spring runoff, it doesn’t create an erosion factor.”
He said some crews are now backhauling and refurbishing equipment.
“We’re still in fire season, and we still need that equipment for other fires,” he said.
He said in the South Fork of the Trinity River and Irish Mountain areas, steep terrain is proving hard to access but crews are holding the lines the best they can.
By Sunday, many crews went from fighting fires to mopping them up and making sure they are out.
“On the west side, crews are mopping up in the West Fork of the Van Duzen River. Steep terrain has made fire suppression challenging, but progress has been made,” a Forest Service release said Sunday. “Crews expect to have this section contained soon.”
The release said that on the east side of the fire infrared imagery showed little heat in the area.
In fact, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s fire map showed only a single hot spot inside the entire million acres of fire area Monday.
“On the north end, crews working in rugged terrain near Bear Wallow and Irish Mountain have built contingency lines ahead of the fire,” according to a Sunday update. “This area has shown little growth, and firefighters will monitor the situation and take action as needed.”
U.S. Forest Service Information Officer Carol Underhill said there has been very little fire activity in the northwest region.
“The containment lines are holding up, even through all the wind,” she said.
Over the weekend, fire command transitioned to a Type 3 team, which uses more local resources, according to Underhill. One noticeable effect of the change is the end of regular live briefings on social media.
Underhill said that while the long updates will cease, officials will continue to update Inciweb, the fire information system.
She said operations are winding down on both the August Complex and the Red Salmon fire, which will also transition to type 3 soon.
Now, Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams will go into burned areas to examine the potential dangers of erosion, water damage and mudslides in order to provide recommendations for rehabilitation programs.
To see the latest forest closures, go online to www.fs.usda.gov/goto/stnf/forestorders.
Roads still closed
Highway 36 remains closed from Southfork Summit Mountain Road east to the Highway 3 intersection. Eastbound and westbound traffic is currently being escorted through the closure at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. daily.
Last week, Caltrans information officer Chris Woodward said a lot of work remains before the road can open. Wooodward said Caltrans’ contractor will need to remove as many as 2,500 hazardous trees near the roadway and repair several sections of guardrail that were destroyed by fire.
He said the contractor may need until the end of November to fully repair the roadway.
For current road closure information, visit Caltrans at https://roads.dot.ca.gov.
As of Monday, Oct. 26, the Inciweb fire information system listed the following acreage and containment numbers for fires burning closest to Trinity County.
August Complex: 1,032,648 acres at 93 percent containment. The fire was discovered on Aug. 16 and was caused by lightning. Full containment is estimated for Nov. 15.
Red Salmon Complex: 143,826 acres at 78 percent containment. The fire was discovered on July 27 and was caused by lightning. No estimate has been made for full containment.
The Zogg fire in Shasta County is estimated to be 56,338 acres in size and is 100 percent contained. Its cause is under investigation.
The Fox fire in Siskiyou County remains at 2,188 acres at 93 percent containment, according to the Inciweb information system. The fire was discovered Sept. 14 and was determined to have been human-caused.
The Slater/Devil fires, Siskiyou County, have shown little movement in recent days, despite drying conditions. The Devil fire is 8,885 acres at 67 percent containment while the Slater fire is at 156,773 and 85 percent containment. The fires were discovered on Sept. 7 and the cause is under investigation. No estimate for containment has been given.
Spring fire; 230 acres and 100 percent contained. The lightning-caused fire started Aug. 17 near Deer Lick Springs and was fully contained by Aug. 28.
Hobo fire; 413 acres and 100 percent contained. The fire was discovered on Sept 1 near Junction City and was fully contained by Sept. 9. The cause remains under investigation. U.S. Forest Service personnel regularly revisit the site to look for flare ups.
The National Weather Service is predicting that temperatures will range from the mid-30s in the morning to low 80s in the afternoon to evening hours with no rain in the forecast this week.
Local Assistance Center available
Trinity County residents affected by the August Complex will be able to access recovery services and resources at a Local Assistance Center beginning on Thursday Oct. 29. The LAC will help with replacing documents (such as driver licenses, identification cards and vital records). Local, state and federal agencies, as well as community organizations will be available to answer questions, refer residents to recovery resources and take applications to determine eligibility for disaster assistance.
The LAC will be located at the Ruth Lake Community Hall, 591 Van Duzen Road, Mad River. Dates and hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, through Wednesday, Nov. 4 (includes Saturday and Sunday).
Trinity County Environmental Health will be at the LAC at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, to provide information on the debris removal process and will be available throughout the day to answer questions.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, all visitors must wear facial coverings and practice social distancing. The agencies that will be present at the LAC will include:
► Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
► Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
► California Department of Insurance (CDI)
► Employment Development Department (EDD)
► California Department of Public Health - Vital Records (CDPH)
► California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
► American Red Cross
► Trinity County Health and Human Services — CalFresh
► Trinity County Assessor/Clerk/Recorder/Elections (Oct. 30, Nov. 2)
► Lions Club (Oct. 29, Nov. 1)
► Trinity County Environmental Health (Oct. 29)
The following agencies will also have information available:
► California Department of Tax & Fee Admin. (CDTFA)
► Franchise Tax Board (FTB)
► Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB)
► California Department of Veteran Affairs (CalVet)
► Housing and Community Development (HCD)
► California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)
► Trinity County Behavioral Health Services
► Trinity County Department of Agriculture
► USDA Farm Service Agency
Help sought for Southern Trinity
With more than 1 million acres lost in the August Complex through six counties, the Weaverville Lions are soliciting funds for neighbors and friends to the south. Consider sending funds to the Lions, either by mail at Weaverville Lions, P.O. Box 386, Weaverville, CA 96093, or dropping it off with Lion Dave Marceau at the Floor Store, 1306 Nugget Lane, Weaverville. The Lions hope to assist some of their southern friends with necessary financial help and/or housing.