UPDATE, 9/10/2020, 8:23 p.m. — Today’s lighter winds, higher relative humidity, and lower temperatures have allowed firefighters to move away from the defensive fire fighting stance they took during the last two days during the extreme wind event, and begin aggressively fighting the fire again.
During tonight’s August Complex virtual community meeting, August Complex spokespeople and leaders said they feel confident that if current weather conditions hold, they will be able to protect Covelo, which is six to seven miles from the fires edge, and the Lake Pillsbury area, but also mentioned that if a new weather system rolls in, those communities could again be threatened.
Currently, Cal Fire is working in the area between Covelo and the National Forest Boundary to protect the Covelo area.
Although the weather conditions have calmed down, Mendocino National Forest Forest Supervisor Ann Carlson reminded people that the forest is still closed and hazardous. “The existing fires are still showing extreme behavior,” she said, mentioning that fires are still jumping ridges and moving quickly, and that fire damaged trees may fall and can be extremely dangerous.
The complex, which now exclusively consists of the Doe Fire, crossed the M1 road in multiple locations, established itself in the Yuki Wilderness, and jumped the Eel River just north of Eel River Station. Firefighters are working to catch the fire on the west of the Eel River. According to an August Complex representative, there are firefighters down at Eel River Station working diligently to protect the structures in that area.
On the northwest side of the complex, the fire is burning forcefully in the Yolly-Bolla Wilderness.
Today, firefighters were able to get very close to the fire’s edge and begin building containment lines close to the fire. They are also building containment lines further out (away from the fire), so that if another big event, like the one from earlier this week, comes in, they will be ready to manage and contain the fire.
Carlson mentioned that over the past few weeks, the August complex has brought in as many resources as possible. “But everyone is short on resources,” Carlson said. “Many fires are threatening homes and burning homes. There’s a limited number of teams and resources.”
However, during tonight’s meeting, a spokesperson said that international firefighting coordination efforts have been activated and that likely, firefighters from Canada, Mexico, and Australia will soon arrive to help fight the fires in the western U.S. However, they don’t know exactly when those firefighters will arrive or where they will be assigned to.
The scale of the fires is truly astounding. The various fires burning in the National Forest have all burned together into one enormous fire footprint, still burning along its western edges, 746,607 acres in size. This number includes the acreage of the Elkhorn, Hopkins, Doe, and other fires now part of the August Complex. Though “complexes” are often disconnected fires that are still close together, with the fires having burned into each other the August Complex is made of up of one continuous burned area, currently measuring 1,167 square miles, or about the size of Sonoma County.
Although the extreme fire conditions have given way to softer winds, and more humid air, Carlson said the fire will probably burn until the region gets some precipitation. “We’ll be able to contain it, we’re working hard, but the interior of the fire will remain active until we get rain,” said Carlson.
In a short, emotional message that brought her to tears, Carlson thanked everyone who has worked hard to protect the Mendocino National Forest.
UPDATE, 9/10/2020 5:52 p.m. — Evacuation orders and warnings from the August Complex remain largely the same as this morning.
Within Mendocino County, the area north of Bell Springs, across east including the Mendocino area of Island mountain and Mina are under evacuation order. Areas to the south of that, all the way down to the 101 are under evacuation warning. Laytonville and Covelo are not under evacuation orders or warnings, nor are Leggett or Piercy.
North of Covelo is under an evacuation warning. Additionally, there is a huge swath of the county from the county line along the eastern bank of the Eel all the way to the fire that is under mandatory evacuation.
Areas north of Potter Valley and in the Van Arsdale area remain under an evacuation warning.
In Humboldt County, evacuation orders remain largely the same, Blocksburg, Alderpoint, Harris, Palo Verde, and Island Mountain are under evacuation orders. There are still evacuation warnings for Myers Flat, Miranda, Phillipsville, Garberville, Benbow, Fruitland, Brock Creek, Fort Seward, Steelhead, and Eel Rock. The following areas are NOT under evacuation orders or warnings — Fortuna, Loleta, Eureka, Arcata, Mckinleyville, Blue Lake, Trinidad, Rio Dell, and Scotia.
In Trinity County, the Zenia and Kettempom areas remain under evacuation orders, as well as Hettenshaw Valley and all areas south of Ruth. Ruth, Ruth Lake, Mad River, Forest Glen, and Post mountain are still under evacuation warnings.
In Lake County, evacuation orders still include all areas north of Pack Saddle Creek, south of the Lake County line, west of the Lake County Line and east of the Lake County Line.
The August Complex is still recorded to be 471,185 acres, the same acreage as this morning. However, August Complex public information officer Terry Krasko said over the phone that it’s probably larger than that at this point. The fire has continued to grow to the west today, but Krasko does not know by how much or where exactly the fire has grown.
Detailed information on the fires precise growth and whereabouts is hard to come by. Due smoky conditions, the August Complex team cannot have helicopters fly over the fire to map out the fire. They requested, from the National Interagency Fire Center, an infrared flight to map the fire. For the last two nights the August Complex team has been hoping an infrared plane, which can fly high above the smoke, would arrive. However, they recently found out that the Interagency Fire Center’s infrared plane is currently being repaired, so they do not know when then the Interagency will be able to send a plane. Additionally, they are not the only fire team requesting an infrared flight. With blazes burning across the state of California, resources can be hard to come by.
According to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s evening update, the northern edge of the Elkhorn fire mostly held through last night. The western bulge of the fire is holding at the eastern edge of Eel Creek, where firefighters are working vigorously to keep it that way.
Tonight, prevailing southeasterly winds will continue to blow through the region, pushing the fires to the northeast. However, terrain driven winds will make overall wind direction variable. Relative humidity has returned to normal percentages, around 15-30%, a vast improvement from the relative humidity just two days ago, which settled in the single digits.
Air quality around Mendocino County remains poor. Currently, air quality in large swaths of the county is either unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous, according to information from Purple Air. Some areas along southern Mendocino’s 101 corridor are under conditions that are only unhealthy for sensitive groups.
MENDOCINO Co., 9/10/2020 — The August Complex has surpassed the Mendocino Complex of 2018 as the largest wildfire in recorded California history, marking the second time in two years that Mendocino County has been menaced by such a monstrous blaze. And with this new growth has come additional mandatory evacuations and evacuation warnings.
According to this morning’s press release from the U.S. Forest Service, the August Complex is now 471,185 acres and 24 percent contained.
For Mendocino County, the evacuation area now extends past Sanhedren, or Big Signal, peak. Mandatory evacuation goes all the way to west of Sanhedren almost to the bank of the Eel. Evacuation warnings have extended down to an area just north of Potter Valley and to areas north of The Little Lake Valley.
The Elkhorn Fire continues to push west. In Humboldt County, evacuation orders remain in place for Blocksburg, Alderpoint, Harris, Palo Verde, and Island Mountain. There are still evacuation warnings for Myers Flat, Miranda, Phillipsville, Garberville, Benbow, Fruitland, Brock Creek, Fort Seward, Steelhead, and Eel Rock. The following areas are NOT under evacuation orders order warnings — Fortuna, Loleta, Eureka, Arcata, Mckinleyville, Blue Lake, Trinidad, Rio Dell, and Scotia.
Over the past two days, as sustained winds blew through Mendocino National Forest, the complex burned west. On Tuesday, the fire crossed the Black Butte River, jumped the M1 road, and established itself in the Yuki Wilderness.
Although the winds softened from Tuesday to Wednesday, conditions remained volatile, and “the fire progressed beyond the Eel River.” There were structures burned in the fires run to the west, but the number of buildings lost to the flames is currently unknown.
There are currently 18 crews, 72 engines, 22 resources, 41 water tenders, and nine helicopters fighting the complex.
It is not yet known if the containment lines on the southwest side of the fire, near the Lake Pillsbury area have held, said August Complex public information officer Kimberly Kaschalk said over the phone. Kaschalk was not sure if the Elkhorn and August Complex fires have burned into each other, but that they are definitely very close.
Firefighters are out in the field today, working hard to evaluate the fire’s footprint, looking at where it established and trying to pinpoint the best locations to start building containment lines. “We’re just trying to assess how we can get back in there, re-engage, and box in the fire,” said Kaschalk.
The Elkhorn fire is now burning in 255,309 acres, according to the latest information from the federal government. There are 25 engines, five hand crews, nine dozers, seven water tenders, and one helicopter working to control and contain the Elkhorn. Elkhorn fire public information officer Phyllis Swanson said the complex has requested more resources, but don’t know if or when they will arrive. “Due to everything going on in California, resources are hard to come by,” said Swanson.
Here’s the press release from the USFS on the August Complex
WILLOWS, Calif – Sept. 10, 2020 – The August Complex currently sits at 471,185 acres and 24 percent contained.
The Great Basin Incident Management Team will assume command of the fire at 6 am Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. For specific cabin access related questions, you can call the forest at (530) 934-3316 for the latest information.
Warm and dry conditions with a lot of smoke will last into the weekend. Winds will be variable with gusts up to 18 mph. Evacuation orders are in effect for multiple counties. For evacuation information and orders, contact the respective sheriffs’ offices for more information.
The most up to date information on the August Complex can be found on InciWeb:
Northeast winds continued through most of the day Wednesday. There was significant fire spread from increased fire activity on the west side of the fire, with heavy smoke production across the area.
Due to significant winds, the fire quickly crossed the Black Butte River, continuing beyond the M1 Road late Tuesday. Crews assessed fire activity early Wednesday morning. The fire had become established in the Yuki Wilderness, as well as private lands to the north and west of the wilderness. Firefighters worked diligently on structure protection as the fire progressed.
Despite firefighter preparation and efforts, there were structures burned during the rapid fire growth over the last two days. The number of structures is unknown at this time.
With the strong winds on Wednesday, the fire progressed beyond the Eel River. Firefighters will continue to work with CAL FIRE on containment lines on the west side of the fire Thursday.
There was less fire spread in the Monkey Rock area than on the rest of the Complex. Crews will continue to work to contain that area.
There will be a virtual community meeting at 7 pm, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. Tonight’s meeting information and fire updates can be found on the Mendocino National Forest Facebook
Here’s the press release from the USFS on the Elkhorn Fire:
The Elkhorn, Hopkins, Vinegar Peak and Willow Basin Fires have merged and now are a part of the Elkhorn Fire. The Elkhorn Fire is burning on the Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests. The increase in acreage and the reduction in percent contained are the result of the consolidation of all fires merging into one.
Current Situation: Firefighters worked last night to secure the line on the northern perimeter along the 35 Road (Shasta-Trinity National Forest), utilizing firing operations to remove vegetation and widen the containment along the dozer line. On the west and north west perimeter of the fire (Six Rivers National Forest), crews continue to provide protection for structures in the Ruth area. The goal is to try and push the fire north towards Horse Ridge and Soldier Basin, keeping it out of the valley. The east perimeter of the fire is in mop-up and patrol status. Today, while the weather has stabilized, we will continue to experience active fire behavior due to low relative humidity, steep terrain and very dry conditions in the forest.
Weather: High pressure will build back into the area causing an inversion which will keep smoke and haze over the fire area. The shading caused by the smoke inversion will keep temperatures lower and winds light. Relative humidity will be in the 11-13% range.
Evacuation Orders and Warnings for Mendocino, Humboldt, Tehama and Trinity Counties.
Mendocino County: Evacuation Orders
- Zone S – South of County Line, East of Bell Springs Rd, North of Bell Springs Creek and West of the North Fork of the Eel River.
- Zone Q – South of the County Line, West and North of the North Fork of the Eel River and North and East of Bald Mountain Rd.
- Zone U – South of the County Line, East and North of the East Branch of the South Fork of the Eel River, West of Bell Springs Rd.
- Zone T – South of Bell Springs Cekk, East of Bell Springs Rd, North of Iron Pek and Simmerly Rd, West of the Eel River
- Zone R – West of south of Mina Rd, South of the North Fork of Eel River, East of the Eel River
- Zone P – South of the County Line, East of the Mina Rd, North of Hulls Valley Rd and West of Hulls Creek
- Zone O – South of the County Line, East of Hulls Creek, North of Mendocino Pass Rd, and West of Williams Creek
Evacuation Point: Covelo High School, 76280 High School Street, Covelo, CA
Animal and Livestock Care: Covelo Rodeo Grounds, South Airport Road, Covelo, CA
Trinity County: Evacuation Orders
- Ruth, Zenia, Kettenpom, Hettenshaw Valley
- Ruth Lake, Mad River, Forest Glen and Post Mountain
Evacuation Point: Southern Trinity High School located at 600 Van Duzen Road, Mad River, CA
Humboldt County: Evacuation Orders
- Areas south of Highway 36 in Bridgeville, and all communities along Alderpoint Road down to the Mendocino/Trinity County Line.
- Areas west of Bell Springs Road to Highway 101 spanning from Alderpoint Road to the Mendocino/Trinity County Line (including Garberville).
- Alderpoint, Palo Verde, Island Mountain and Harris
Tehama County: Evacuation Orders
- Zone A: All areas south of Pettyjohn Rd. to the Mendocino National Forest boundary, east of the Mendocino National Forest boundary to Mary Ellen Place, north to Cobb Flat and south to the Mendocino National Forest Boundary
- Zone C-1: All areas north of Pettyjohn Road to Wells Creek, east of the Shasta Trinity National Forest Boundary and west of Weemasoul Road/Halley Grade
- Zone Q: All areas north of Raglin Ridge Road/Forest Road 23N27, west of the Mendocino National Forest Boundary, east of the Zone B boundary and south of Forest Road 25N01/ Forest Road M22.
- Zone B: All areas south of Lanyan Trail to Brown Place, west to the Mendocino National Forest boundary, north to Mary Ellen Page and east to Bluedoor Flat/Red Bank Road/County Rd. 80.
- Zone C-2: The evacuation order has been reduced to an evacuation warning for all areas north of Wells Creek to Hwy 36, east of the Shasta Trinity National Forest boundary and west of Weemasoul Road/Halley Grade.
Forest Closures: Shasta-Trinity, Mendocino, and Six Rivers National Forests.
Due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions throughout the state, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region has closed all 18 national forests in California. This includes the Mendocino, Shasta- Trinity and Six Rivers National Forest. It is critical that all national forest visitors follow these important closures and restrictions for their own safety and the safety of our firefighters. If you have specific questions about forest closures, please call your local Forest Service office.
Cooperating Agencies: Tehama County Sheriff’s Office, Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, National Weather Service, BLM, Cal OES, CALFIRE
Safety Message: Smoke will limit visibility while driving, please use caution as firefighters and equipment are working in the fire area.Wildfire Preparedness: Plan, Know and Act. Please be ready if a wildfire nears your property or community. For more information visit the following webs at: www.readyforwildfire.org/