[env-trinity] Redding Record Searchlight 8 13 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Aug 13 10:29:42 PDT 2009

Trinity County fire now 40 percent contained; still 1,200 acres

Redding Record Searchlight-8/13/09

By Ryan Sabalow, Amanda Winters 


Fire crews Wednesday confronted a wildland fire in the Lewiston area that
erupted in just a few minutes from a small spot to a rapidly spreading blaze
that eventually charred at least 1,200 acres.


By 7 a.m. today, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
reported that the fire was 40 percent contained, a 10 percent jump in
containment from the night before.


Firefighters were able to keep the fire at 1,200 acres during the night.


Pushed by gusting winds, the flames threatened at least 25 homes in the
Trinity County mountain valley community of 1,300 people west of Redding.


Many mandatory evacuation orders were lifted as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, said
Trinity County Sheriff Lorrac Craig.


At one point, the fire was moving so quickly that the county's telephone
emergency notification system was unable to keep up, said Lynn Ward, a
Trinity County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.


Craig said no homes had burned as of 8 p.m., though at least 25 structures
had been threatened.


Flames licked perilously close to one home, but aggressive fire retardant
drops saved the structure, Craig said.


"It was a white house," Craig said. "I don't know if it's white anymore."


Though evacuations had been ordered for residents living north of Highway
299 on roads including Lewiston, Trinity Dam, Coffin, Oak, Wellock, Fawn
Lodge, Oak Ridge, Lockhart Ranch and Dead Mule, the only mandatory
evacuations still in effect as of 8 p.m. were in the Fawn Lodge area, Craig


Residents there were being ordered to stay away as firefighters were
planning a back burn in the Fawn Lodge area around midnight, Craig said.


Earlier in the evening, Peggy Wellock, who lives on the road that shares her
last name, was told she might soon have to evacuate.


"If we have to, I'll put my cattle in the river," Wellock said as she stood
with several neighbors next to a sheriff's patrol car listening to its


An evacuation center had been set up at Weaverville Elementary School on
Highway 3 in Weaverville.


The fire at one point was burning on the ridge above Lewiston Elementary
School. Several spot fires spread down the hillside throughout the early
evening, crawling closer to the town.


The fire, originally dispatched near Old Lewiston and Coffin roads, was
first reported at 2:27 p.m. Because of its location, it was dubbed the
Coffin Fire.


As of this morning, there were 658 firefighters fighting the fire, 52 fire
engines, 17 bulldozers and 25 hand crews, according to Cal Fire officials.
Four air tankers, three helicopters and six water tenders also were assigned
to the blaze. The cost to date was estimated at more than $513,000.


At another point Wednesday evening, pilots attacking the blaze from the air
reported being worried about flying near high-voltage power lines, and they
requested the power company cut the voltage.


Commanders on the ground reported back that doing so would shut down power
for most of California's north coast. The power was not shut down.


The smoke plume from the fire was clearly visible above the hills west of
Redding. Ash from the fire could be seen falling at the Central Valley High
School football practice in Shasta Lake.


Trinity Dam Boulevard was closed Wednesday night from Highway 299 to the
Plug and Jug store, a Cal Fire spokeswoman said.


The fire had burned all the way to Trinity Dam Boulevard, and spot fires
were springing up nearby, said John Bruno, a Cal Fire spokesman.


Lewiston Road between Highway 299 and Trinity Dam Boulevard was temporarily
closed because of the fire, said Sgt. Pete Baraga of the Trinity County
Sheriff's Department.


Soon after the blaze started, Tony Miller, 35, a partner at the One Maple
Winery at 4271 Lewiston Road, said he and his wife, Heidi, watched from
their back porch as the fire spread. Miller said the flames came dangerously
close his neighbors' homes.


"There's fire all the way around them," Miller said. "It's probably right on


He said the blaze appeared to have started at the end of Coffin Road, near
the Lowden Ranch and the sediment ponds, a local landmark.


Part of the fire was burning along the southern edge of the 1999 Lowden
Fire, said Gary Mixon, the 53-year-old owner of the Plug and Jug at 4591
Trinity Dam Blvd.


Mixon said Wednesday that he could see flames on the ridge above his store.
He said the fire was eerily similar to the Lowden Fire, even moving in the
same direction as that blaze, which burned for a week, torching 2,000 acres
and burning 23 homes.


After the 1999 fire, nearly 250 families filed claims against the Bureau of
Land Management, which eventually paid more than $6.1 million to compensate
for property lost when a firefighter-set controlled burn escaped


Firefighters were expected to face similar gusty conditions today.


Weather forecasts indicate that though winds would die off Wednesday night,
they'll kick back up today with westerly gusts blowing up to 20 mph in
Trinity County and western Shasta County


Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

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