Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A massive wildfire in Mariposa County triggered a new round of evacuations Tuesday as flames threatened power lines that feed Yosemite National Park, officials said.

Cal Fire's  website here.
Approximately 4,000 people have been forced from their homes since the Detwiler fire, which is burning east of Lake McClure, exploded to 25,000 acres, with hundreds of firefighters trudging through steep terrain to reach flames in overgrown vegetation, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

I'm familiar with the country around Coulterville and Greeley Hill.  Very brushy, and now with multiple years of drought to add to the problem.  In my gold mining days, I recall hiking down into steep gullies on the side of a ridge in this region, and wondering if it would be possible to escape alive if a fire ever started down below.  The steepness of the ridge would have accelerated any fire to speeds that would be hard to believe, and the manzanita that grows everywhere burns extremely hot.  That's the kind of country were dealing with here.

Nevertheless, fires are common in this country in the summer.  People who are paid to know are or should be aware of the threat, and prepare accordingly to fight these inevitable conflagrations before they start.  Serious, real world fire breaks should be built to contain fires in this hot, thickly brushed landscape.

But of course nothing like that has been done, to my knowledge at least.   Once it gets into the brush, it's gone, and at a measly 5% containment so far, all Cal Fire can do is try and keep it away from town and homes.   Success there will depend strongly on how much brush clearance the local homeowners have done beforehand.

Cal Fire simply cannot put this fire out.  They aren't prepared, in spite of their shiny nice new trucks, sharp uniforms, and special tax money in the bank.  The Butte Fire a couple of years ago started in the foothills, mainly in grass at first where you'd think it would be at least a little easier to catch and extinguish, and just burned itself out eventually.  Cal Fire saved some homes, but really couldn't put it out.

Once any fire reaches a certain size, and this one seems to be that big already, it's too big for the number of men and resources to stop.  It's just damage control from here on out.

This will be the same.  It will burn to the granite, probably through parts of Yosemite, and go out more or less naturally when it runs out of fuel.  

The error here is lack of preparation before the fire starts.

On the bright side, the removal of virtually impenetrable brush by this fire will open up considerable land for gold prospecting.  I suppose that's a bright side.


  1. You obviously have no idea of what Cal Fire does or doesn't do to prepare for wildfires.
    Taking cheap shots from the comfort of your little blog shows your ignorance.
    This fire is an example of what happens when fuels, weather, and terrain come into alignment in a very difficult area to fight fire in.
    After last winters rains and an extraordinary grass crop that grew up into the brush, I am not surprised at all with the fire behavior this fire is showing.
    Making snarky comments about uniforms and new equipment further shows your stupidity regarding the maximum effort being put forth by all fire departments assigned to the incident.
    Perhaps you should rethink your statement, you managed to insult everyone on the fire.

    1. I know it's an unpopular position, but every year I see these fires in my backyard go way out of control, and I wonder why. It's not that they don't have money, their equipment is new and in fine shape.

      It's no secret that there's been a multiyear drought, and there is lots of brush to burn.

      My point is that it would be better to be pro active before the fires get going. Firebreaks planned and put in place in areas where they would work, perhaps, when there is not fire putting the pressure on.

      I have no doubt that they are working hard, but good lord, every year it's huge fires that blow out of control and then become virtually unmanageable. Why?

      There are areas where the brush and terrain are such that it's a waste to even try. How about either mitigating before the fire starts, or planning around those areas?
      The firefighters are good folk doing hard work, but that doesn't mean we cannot question why this happens all the time, leaving vast areas burnt to the ground, and requiring big evacuations of whole regions. There are multiple government agencies responsible, all well funded and manned. How about they manage their (our) resources so these catastrophic fires are rare, instead of a yearly occurrence?

      It's not an insult to anyone to ask these questions. It's time we face up to the fire problems our region obviously presents, and see about some realistic solutions.

  2. Well said C.W., and I agree; time after time the exact same scenario plays out, and each time it's met with "we never expected something like this to happen."

    Some people are getting large paychecks through false pretenses; they're paid to know about these things, and to prevent these disasters, but somehow they get caught out.

    Same thing happens with the water storage; somehow all those experts never manage to get any new storage facilities built, even though any fool can see how much the population's grown.

    Our State is sadly run by extremely well-paid idiots.

    1. Exactly, Esky, a different approach needs to be made. I've just been browsing through some social media sites with citizen taken photos of the fire, mostly from yesterday. The countryside the fire was burning in, at least yesterday, was rolling hills and grassland, with significant areas of brush. If the fire can't be stopped there, it's a big problem, as just a few miles to the east the ground gets much steeper and far more brushy. Truly, if it gets that far the fire will be two or three times more difficult to stop. It would have been nice to have pre constructed fire lines in likely spots, with a plan to man and equip those lines properly. Maybe a backfire or two when the wind isn't blowing.
      Another issue is what will happen if another big fire gets going while this one is well out of control. Let's pray we are spared that.

  3. Fuels could easily be removed if environmentalists didn't squawk every time a piece of equipment was started up in the wildlands.

    I owned some property in the vicinity of the area.
    I sold it when I saw that other property owners were loathe to clear fire hazards from their lots.

    1. Excellent point. It would be an interesting study to see how much rabid environmentalism and the rules they get passed by the legislature hinder the proper preparation for wild fires.

    2. I only know anecdotally through acquaintance with retired CDF Chiefs.

  4. Uncle Skip hit it. These areas had fires every year before man came along and decided he knew better. Removing dead brush is now a crime against nature. And fires are corralled and stopped before they can remove last season's trash. So when a fire does happen, it burns so hot and high it reaches the tree canopy that evolved to be above the grassland and brush fires and all hell breaks loose. Animals that evolved to burrow below the seasonal fires are now cooked in their dens, and larger ones can no longer outrun the raging inferno. The stupidity (greed) of the so-called greens knows no bounds.

    And I with you on those thoughts when hiking. Keep the nose open and conserve energy for a fast escape if needed.

    1. Do those 'fire blankets' I used to hear about back when I lived there count for anything in fires like these or is just getting cooked in a blanket?

    2. Pretty much cooked in a blanket.