[env-trinity] Trinity Ablaze

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Aug 5 08:36:27 PDT 2015

Redding.com says 63 square miles have burned.  The fires were reported at 5,000 acres last Friday.  TS

Timbre Beck
Barker fire
A helicopter carrying a bucket of water flies toward the Barker fire on Friday.
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 Fire in the pines
Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 6:15 am | Updated: 7:59 am, Wed Aug 5, 2015.By AMY GITTELSOHN The Trinity Journal | 0 commentsFires ignited by lightning in Trinity County have burned more than 50,000 acres and forced residents from their homes, slamming the Trinity Pines area where structures have been lost.Containment is still low for the fires, one of which swept into the Pines subdivision Friday “like a freight train,” as Post Mountain Fire Chief Tim Spiersch put it. Firefighters are still working to contain the other fires as well, with evacuation orders remaining in effect in numerous communities including parts of Hyampom, Hayfork, Mad River and Ruth, Denny and Trinity Pines.“We’re not out of the thick of this by any means,” said Rocky Opliger, who leads the interagency management team working on the Fork Complex of fires in the Hayfork, Trinity Pines, Harrison Gulch and Barker Creek areas.At a community meeting in Hayfork Monday evening, Opliger said more severe weather is expected Thursday and Friday with higher temperatures, downdrafts and lightning potential. Evacuations remain in place because of that potential, he said.The fires are being managed jointly by interagency teams including the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire. Crews from fire departments around the country have also traveled to Trinity County.Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California on Friday to help mobilize additional firefighting and disaster response teams due to the number of wildfires burning in much of the state.Air advisories due to smoky conditions resulting from the many fires have been issued in Trinity County even in communities not currently threatened by fire, including Weaverville.Chief Spiersch from Post Mountain estimated that 20 percent of the Pines burned in Friday’s firestorm, with the South Ridge and Pipeline areas devastated.Early this week he had confirmed that 12 residences were destroyed and estimated the total number of homes destroyed to be around 20 although he had not made it down every driveway. Also, many of the 200 parcels that burned had trailers or unpermitted structures used as dwellings, he said.He estimated there were more than 100 burned vehicles.The burned properties will have to be checked with a cadaver dog, he said, but at this point no one has been reported missing.With the roads blocked, Trinity Pines residents who chose to stay in spite of the evacuation order are short of food and supplies, he said.Opliger was asked about that situation at the meeting in Hayfork, and said the team is trying to work something out to get food and water to the area. However, he noted that the Trinity Pines is a mandatory evacuation area and said his focus is to get people out and to the evacuation shelter in Hayfork.“We will escort them out,” he said.The comment was also made that mandatory evacuations apply to everybody, and a man in the audience responded that if not for the people who stayed, “there wouldn’t be any Pines.”On Sunday the scene around the area of the Pines that burned was of trees turned to blackened poles, rubble from what had once been homes and structures, and vehicles gutted by flames and such intense heat that aluminum parts melted and ran in rivulets onto the ground. With fences destroyed and blackened tree trunks now devoid of foliage, withered marijuana grows could be seen at many locations.Volunteers and residents fought to protect homes on their own the first day, with more firefighting resources arriving Saturday morning, Spiersch said.The volunteers took a stand and were able to save homes, he said.James Wallace and his son, Jason, surveyed the devastation at the home of his in-laws, Ernie and Connie Hall, in the Pines. A home and large shop had been destroyed and the couple’s 2 acres were blackened and still smoking.“Heart wrenching,” Jason Wallace said.The family had been working on the place for about 35 years, said James Wallace, who lives nearby but was not home when the fire swept through. Angrily he noted that his family pays the Cal Fire fee but the agency was not in the Pines when the flames came through.The Halls had been in Redding for an appointment Friday but managed to return and rescue their dog in the nick of time.“They ran to the house to get the dog, and the place went up,” Wallace said.The Trinity County Sheriff’s Office along with officers from other counties responded to help with evacuations. Officers went through the Pines with air horns and sirens, said Trinity County Sheriff’s Cpl. Ron Hanover, who responded from the Hyampom area.“Most of the places I contacted were already vacant when we came through,” Hanover said.Although things had quieted on Sunday, firefighters from out of the area remained on the scene.“The concern is with the weather that could possibly be coming in,” said Capt. Eric Janert with a crew staffing an Office of Emergency Services engine from the city of Hemet.The crew was doing perimeter control to see that the fire doesn’t cross into unburned area, he said, given the potential for wind, rolling debris and the unsecured fire edge.The communities of Hayfork and Hyampom have also been under siege.Two fires in the Fork Complex, the Rail and Barker fires, quickly blew up on Friday afternoon and spread toward the town of Hayfork from the south and east. The ongoing fires have caused the cancellation of the Trinity County Fair which was scheduled for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The junior livestock events will be held.Hayfork Interim Fire Chief Jerry Hlavac said as of early this week he had not heard of any residences burning in the Hayfork fire district area.So far the biggest threat was from the Rail fire that came up from Peanut, he said.“It came roaring into town really hot and fast,” Hlavac said, burning up to the county dump and over to Kingsbury Road. “Fire burned down to the property lines where they had bulldozer lines.”Hayfork District Ranger Tom Hall said in the South Complex affecting Hyampom, the Pelletreau fire has high priority with a line being put in on its northeast side. The Castle fire started to push toward power lines, and poles are being treated, he said. Ranches in Corral Bottom are being prepared.In Southern Trinity, Fire Chief Bill German said the Mad River Complex which has burned large swathes around Ruth Lake destroyed a couple of summer cabins on South Fork Mountain above the lake. That complex is also being managed by an interagency team, and on Tuesday German said firefighting efforts seemed to be going well but there is still “a tremendous amount of open edge to this fire.”On Tuesday at the Forest Service’s request the Sheriff’s Department added Denny to the list of mandatory evacuations. The Forest Service advised that due to the amount of fire activity they have limited resources for structure protection.At the community meeting in Hayfork, residents asked how they can get from one non-evacuated area to another for appointments given the road closures. Sheriff Bruce Haney said the roadblocks are in part to prevent looting of evacuated areas; however, people needing to get through should ask the Caltrans or CHP people at the roadblock to contact the Sheriff’s Office, which will arrange an escort. He said that, of course, an emergency would be handled differently.Law enforcement from around the North State has responded to assist the Sheriff’s Office with about 20 additional officers.Multiple fires in five areas have burned more than 50,000 acres, forced evacuations
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