TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — The SQF Complex Fire continued to exhibit “active” fire behavior as it torches the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests in Tulare County.
The fire, consisting of the larger Castle Fire and the smaller Shotgun Fire, has scorched a total of 128,902 acres and remains 12% contained as of Friday morning.
The blaze began on Aug. 19 from lightning.
Officials reported that the Castle Fire continues to move south toward the communities of Ponderosa, Camp Nelson and Pyles Boys Camp.
A “finger” of fire continues to move down Slate Mountain to the south and east. It threatens to align with the slope and cause an uphill run toward Ponderosa.
“Active” fire behavior was seen early Friday morning and officials expect it to continue throughout the day and into the night.
Fire activity was seen through the last unburned section of the Freeman Grove of giant sequoias.
Fire is expected to also continue impacting Mountain Home State Forest, Blue Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Springville, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and the Tule River Reservation.
Dense smoke and an inversion layer moderated fire activity, producing “understory burning effects,” in the section of the Castle Fire near Balch Park, officials said. When the inversion lifts, “dangerous” rates of spread are seen through dense old growth bush that is over 10 feet tall.
The heavy dead and down fuels on steep slopes are aiding in spreading flames into inaccessible drainages and terrain.
“Mid-range spotting,” where embers carried into the wind spread fire, had been seen from dead standing trees killed by bark beetles and from a large amount of fuel on the forest floor — with large cold ember cast material being found over 5 miles from the current fire line.
Dead standing beetle killed trees is creating situation where single or groups of trees erupt in flames from bottom to top.
The Shotgun Fire continued a “low-intensity’ burn in sparse fuel with moderate growth.
Low humidity recovery at night are expected to allow for “critical” burning conditions, officials said. Those conditions along with forecasted weather conditions can produce another day of large fire growth.
Crews hope to seek opportunities to create containment lines near Camp Nelson but have been delayed due to “extreme” fire behavior.
Structure assessments are being conducted as conditions allow and work is being done to restore power to the affected communities.
At multiple sections of the Castle Fire, firefighters hope to initiate control burns within the next 24 to 36 hours to protect threatened structures.
A firefighting resource shortage due to the number of fires in the state is limiting containment efforts while crews continue protecting assets and high-value resources.
Current road closures are as follows:
- Highway 190 at Rio Vista Road/Bridge Lane in Springville
- Balch Park & Bear Creek
- Balch Park & Yokohl
- Mountain 50 & 107
- Mountain 99 & Sherman Pass, Sherman Pass & Cherry
- Cherokee Oaks off Highway 198
- Highway 198 in Three Rivers through Woodward Gate on the Generals Highway
Evacuation orders are in place for the following communities:
- Pyles Boys Camp
- Sequoia Crest
- Alpine Village
- Redwood Drive
- Lloyd Meadows
- Cedar Slope
- Camp Nelson
- Rogers Camp
- Mountain Aire
- Doyle Springs
- Mountain Home
- Coy Flat
- Highway 190 along the south from the intersection of Balch Park Road, north to Blue Ridge Lookout, east to Moses Mountain, and south to Highway 190 at Mahogany Flat
- Portions of Three Rivers, including south and east from 198, east to south of the Fork Campground, including South Fork Drive, Horn, Cinnamon Canyon, and Cahoon Mountain, and adjacent roads
Evacuation warnings are also in place for the following areas:
- Remaining areas of Three Rivers that do not fall under the mandatory evacuation order
- Springville (All points between Globe Drive and Balch Park Road)
- Silver City
- Mineral King
Temporary evacuation points have been established at:
- Porterville: Porterville Community College, 100 E. College Ave. Porterville, CA. (831) 220-4477
- Exeter: Exeter Memorial building, 324 N. Kaweah Ave. Exeter, CA. (831) 220-4477
Animal evacuation points:
Small animal: Tulare County Animal Shelter, 14131 Ave 256 Visalia, CA (559) 636-4050
South County – Porterville Fairgrounds, 2400 Teapot Dome Ave. Porterville, CA.
North County – Woodlake Rodeo grounds, 19400 Ave 398 Woodlake, CA. (Livestock)