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Bullards Fire: Mop-up continues

Three days after the Bullards Fire was spotted below the Bullards Bar Dam, many of the nearly 1,400 firefighters who came in to battle the blaze were being demobilized.

By Monday afternoon, the fire was more than 75 percent contained, officials said.

Full containment is expected today. No cause has been determined for the fire, which began about 4 p.m. Friday. The cost of fighting the blaze 12 miles northwest of Grass Valley is estimated at just under $3 million, said Mike Minton, Deputy Incident Commander in training from Six Rivers National Forest.



But mop-up of the 1,300 acre blaze and repair of the damaged landscape will continue to be directed from the “mini-city” that has sprung up at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, on McCourtney Road just west of Grass Valley.

“It’s organized chaos,” said Deputy Incident Commander – and Nevada County Consolidated Fire Chief – Tim Fike. “The ability to assemble a mini-city within 24 hours that can care for over 1,000 people is totally amazing.”




The Bullards Fire, although relatively small, was extremely complex from a jurisdictional standpoint, Minton said.

Initially, Calfire acted as the lead agency overseeing the fire – but because so much of the acreage was in the Plumas and Tahoe national forests, the United States Forest Service assumed command.

Other agencies responding included the North San Juan Volunteer Fire Department, crews from Dobbins-Oregon House, Camptonville and Linda fire departments, Yuba County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., state Department of Corrections and private contractors.

A team of more than a dozen staffers were at the base camp Monday to oversee equipment and crew time, communications, and logistics including setting up all the ground support necessary to keep two shifts of firefighters operating 24-7.

That support included a mobile shower unit, catered meals and onsite mechanics to repair equipment.

Firefighters can get to a fire site pretty quickly, Minton said.

“The infrastructure is often the challenge,” he said. “That’s what can overwhelm a small community – all the little issues that creep up on a never-ending basis.”

The Bullards Fire, which consumed a little more than 1,300 acres on the North Yuba River drainage at the southern end of Bullards Bar, was considered moderate in intensity, Minton said.

“It was not a huge fire, but it had a lot of potential” to spread due to the steep terrain acting as a funnel, he said.

“We got a lot of resources on it early, and the cool weather helped,” Minton said. “They don’t all work out that way.”

More than 1,360 people were involved in fighting the fire Sunday evening, but that number had decreased to 1,205 by noon Monday.

Only one injury was reported, with a Calfire employee sustaining a broken foot while working around a bulldozer, Minton said.

Firefighters continued to strengthen and improve the containment line around the fire.

Fire crews were mopping up all hot spots 200 feet in from the fire perimeter. Several miles of hose-lay were strategically placed and extensive mop-up was progressing.

Fire crews continued to remove burned hazard trees along the roads and PG&E crews replaced burned power poles. Local residents were allowed access to their property with proper identification.

“Right now, our plan over the next three days is to be aggressive with demobilizing,” Minton said. “We’re starting to assess the amount of suppression repair work that needs to be done. We want to try to get the lion’s share of the work done while the resources are here.”

All fire evacuations were lifted by the National Forest Service on Sunday.

Most roads were opened, including the Marysville Road and Moonshine Road. Oregon Hill Road is also open, but with cautions as fire equipment may be on the roadway.

County Road 169 remains closed.

Bullards Bar recreation areas and campgrounds have been opened, including to boaters.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.


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