Cal Fire: Full containment of Lowell Fire possible by weekend (VIDEO) (PHOTOS)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Story updated to reflect latest acreage and containment of Lowell Fire.
After increasing fire personnel to more than 1,400 Monday morning, the Lowell Fire, a now 2,300-acre blaze in the Steep Hollow drainage west of Alta, is reported to be 45 percent contained as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, though Cal Fire officials estimate the fire to be fully contained by Aug. 1.
“Anytime you see an increase in containment, it’s a success,” Cal Fire Cpt. Mike Mohler said. “But unfortunately right now we’re seeing some of the high temperatures coming in close to 100 (degrees) with no moisture recovery. We’ve got more ground crews, more aircraft and just really trying to increase that containment.”
Burning since early Saturday afternoon, the fire was first reported to be anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 acres, though finally reassessed to be a more than 1,500-acre blaze burning rapidly and threatening the areas of Lowell Hill and Chalk Bluff, east of Nevada City and surrounding areas.
Currently, there are around 1,800 structures threatened by the fire in Placer and Nevada counties.
Local road closures include Red Dog Road at both Chalk Bluff and Buckeye Ridge roads. Banner Quaker Hill Road at Lower Greenhorn Road has also been issued a road closure, according to the Cal Fire website.
Mandatory evacuations have been issued for Red Dog and You Bet roads east of Greenhorn Creek, as well as Chalk Bluff and Lowell Hill roads.
An evacuation advisory is also in place for the Cascade Shores community; a shelter center for evacuees has been opened at First Baptist Church, located at 1866 Ridge Road in Grass Valley.
Cal Fire units and other assisting agencies have set up a local command post at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
Created on July 25, the fairgrounds camp currently houses more than 700 individuals, as well as large equipment required to fight the fires.
“We have firefighters from Southern California — Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Diego — and local firefighters, at least one (crew) from every fire agency in Nevada County.” Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said.
There are reportedly more than 2,000 fire personnel working the Lowell fire, with many of them staying at local hotels and U.S. Forest Service staff staying in tents on the fairgrounds.
“We do staff the information trailer here at the fairgrounds 24/7,” Cal Fire official Alyssa Smith said. “And throughout Grass Valley and Roseville, we have firefighters doubling up and getting well-rested to help when needed.”
On Monday, Cal Fire officials released the names of the two Cal Fire firefighters from the Lowell Fire who were treated for burns.
Firefighters Branden Campbell and Brian Gatton are both assigned to Cal Fire’s Mendocino Unit, and were released Sunday after suffering burns fighting the fire. They are expected to make a full recovery.
“They are both in good spirits and anxious to return to the fire fight,” said Cal Fire Communications Chief Dan Berlant.
The other two firefighters who were injured were from the U.S. Forest Service.
One of those was released from the hospital Sunday; the other sustained serious burns and was still at UC Davis Medical Center to reportedly receive medical services for the rest of the week.
Cal Fire has activated a Serious Accident Review Team to review the incident.
Berlant said intense efforts continued Monday in order to get a handle on the fire before any wind or temperature changes.
“We’re monitoring the weather with a possible wind shift today,” Berlant said.
Investigators were initially asking the public’s help in locating a vehicle of interest that was in the area when the fire started, though Mohler said they are no longer looking for the vehicle, saying the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District issued an air quality health advisory Monday for people in western Nevada County due to smoke from the Lowell Fire.
According to the district, the main smoke plume from the fire is expected to shift to the northeast, and could result in smoky conditions in the eastern portions of Sierra and Plumas County, and possibly reach Truckee in Nevada County, though smoky conditions may persist in western Nevada County.
The district is advising everyone, especially those with respiratory problems, to avoid outside activities.
For more information on the Lowell Fire, call 530-823-4083, or go to http://www.calfire.ca.gov.
Staff writer Keri Brenner contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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