Environment & Science

Wildfire Update: Fire run leaves 8 firefighters seriously injured, prompts evacuations

Helicopter working the Beaver Fire.
Helicopter working the Beaver Fire.

A wildfire burning in Mendocino County Friday afternoon overran firefighters, seriously injuring eight and prompting Calfire to issue evacuations for nearby areas, a spokesman for the agency said. Officials throughout Northern California are bracing for more, as hot, windy conditions and thunderstorms are expected to make things worse.

CalFire spokesman Bill Murphy said the firefighters' injuries were serious but not life threatening. All of the injured were transferred to burn stations at a hospital nearby, he said.

The Lodge Complex Fire grew by nearly 2,000 acres Friday, when hot and windy weather helped propel it toward nearby homes. 

"Late afternoon yesterday, the fire made a run on the eastern portion of the fire- which means the spread of the fire and the intensity increased substantially," said Murphy. "As a result of that spread and that intensity, firefighters were injured." 

Murphy said the quick spread prompted CalFire to issue evacuation orders of areas nearby, including Camp Seabow, Elder Place, Tan Oak Park, Bald Mountain Ranch, Mad Creek, Elk Creek east of Brush Mountain. 

On Sunday, all residents east and west of Sawyers Bar Road between Taylor Creek and the 40N61 Road and on the 40N54 Road were issued an evacuation order

An evacuation center has been established by the Red Cross at Scott Valley Jr High School, located at 237 Butte Street, Ft Jones. Domestic pets may be taken to the evacuation center at the Jackson Street School in Yreka where kennels will be available. For further information regarding domestic pets and livestock, visit InciWeb's information page here.

You can see more details from the fire below: 

Firetracker: Lodge Lightning Complex

Calfire says it's working to defend areas near the homes, but weather conditions likely won't be in firefighters' favor.

"It's already hot today. The weather is expected to be very similar to what we had yesterday," Murphy said. "So today will be another tough day of firefighting." 

Northern California firefighters brace for hot weather, more thunderstorms

Meanwhile, firefighters who've been battling a series of lightning-stoked blazes in Northern California are bracing themselves for more. Lightning storms are expected to sweep through the area over the weekend and early next week. 

The July Complex and Beaver Fires, both burning in Klamath National Forest, have forced evacuations for several nearby communities. Firefighters are concentrating on securing those areas before they work on suppressing the fire burning in the wilderness, July Complex Fire incident spokesman Don Ferguson said.

"Up 'til yesterday we had the benefit of very stable air over the fire," Ferguson said. Smoke from several nearby fires were actually helping to prevent the July Complex Fire from growing, he said, by shading it.  "It keeps the air temperatures a little lower, the humidities a little higher, and the wind doesn't blow so much." 

That changed Saturday, Ferguson said, as the layer of smoke diminished and winds picked up. Worse, the National Weather Service is predicting gusty winds and thunderstorms from 11 a.m Sunday until 5 a.m. Tuesday — possibly including "dry lightning" — that is lightning without rain. Most of 9 fires currently burning in Northern California resulted from lightning storms that swept through the area last week. 

 "Really, the fuels are so dry here it eclipses any records we have," Ferguson said. "They're as dry as they've ever been and nobody I've met around here — even the old time firefighters have ever really seen fire burn this energetically." 

Ferguson suggested that residents and campers be extremely cautious this weekend. 

"We have a measure we call the 'probability of ignition'  that means of 100 sparks that hit the ground, how many of them are likely to light a fire?," he said. "We're up in about the 90th percentile." 

Common dangers include: 

"Any fire that starts now is sure to run," Ferguson said.

You can see details on the Beaver and July Complex Fires below or at KPCC's Firetracker

July Complex Fire in Siskiyou County

Beaver Fire in Siskiyou County