Containment of Lowell Fire expected next week |

Containment of Lowell Fire expected next week

A Cal Fire firefighter works the Lowell Fire.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Lowell Fire

Location: In Steep Hollow drainage west of Alta

Containment: 2,304 acres/80 percent

Estimated containment: Aug. 10

Structures threatened: 54 in Placer and Nevada counties

Injuries: 6

Cooperating agencies: Cal OES, California National Guard, CHP, Nevada County Sheriff, Placer County Sheriff, USFS, BLM, California Conservation Corps, SPI and PG&E.

Total fire personnel: 831

Total fire engines: 52

Total fire crews: 22

Total helicopters: 1

Total dozers: 6

Total water tenders: 18

Cause: Under investigation. Investigators are no longer looking for the vehicle of interest and appreciate all of the tips from the public.

Firefighters have extinguished all active flames in the Lowell Fire — a 2,304-acre fire that broke out July 25 in the Steep Hollow drainage west of Alta — and are now concentrating on eliminating smoldering hot-spots caused by the blaze, fire officials said Sunday.

As of Sunday afternoon, the fire was 80 percent contained.

However, full containment of the fire, originally estimated for Monday, is now projected for Aug. 10 as fire crews tackle heavy timber to complete mop-up efforts.

Cal Fire Cpt. Mike Mohler said the majority of threat from the fire is now in stump holes, which result when trees catch fire and burn below ground. Fire crews have to hike into the terrain and clear timber before digging those areas out.

“It’s just really tedious work for hand crews,” Mohler said. “It’s not something where you can pull a fire engine up and spray water on it.”

At one point, as many as 2,400 firefighters were working to control the fire; on Sunday, there were 831 firefighters assigned to the area.

The Lowell Fire continues to threaten about 54 structures in Placer and Nevada counties, down from an estimated 1,800 structures early last week. So far one outbuilding, reported as an unoccupied cabin, has been destroyed by the fire.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Evacuation advisories remain in effect in the Buckeye Ridge community and from Chalk Bluff to Banner Quaker roads in the Steep Hollow Creek community.

In addition, several local roads in Nevada County are still closed, including Red Dog Road at Chalk Bluff Road and at Buckeye Ridge, Banner Quaker at Lower Greenhorn Road and at Chalk Bluff Road and Lowell Hill Road at Mule Spring Road.

Placer County road closures include Secret Town at Chicago Park Power House Road and Diggin Road at Main Street in Dutch Flat.

A total of six firefighters have been injured in the attempt to extinguish the blaze; five were treated and released for minor injuries.

Matt Aoki, a U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter, suffered more serious 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his hands and face on July 26. Aoki was hospitalized at the Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center at U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento; an update on his condition was not immediately available Sunday.

For fire personnel continuing to work toward containment, the weather should bring some minor relief; temperatures are predicted to hover in the mid-80s over the next few days, falling several degrees from last week’s temperatures.

“Anytime we can get cooler temperatures, even some overcast or even some precipitation” it helps “not only for fire conditions but for the health of the firefighters,” Mohler said.

Extreme temperatures and a prolonged period of drought have increased fire danger throughout California. Firefighters are currently battling more than 21 major fires across the state, according to Cal Fire officials — including the Rocky Fire, a 47,000-acre blaze in Lake County that was estimated to be just 5 percent contained on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday, while likening California to a “tinderbox,” Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, directing all state agencies to help with emergency relief and activating the National Guard to help with disaster response.

Mohler said that the firefighters assigned to the Lowell Fire have done “an incredible job,” pointing out that no civilians were injured in the fire and only one structure was damaged.

“I’m very impressed with how quickly they were able to get this one contained,” Mohler said.

Mohler encouraged community members to remain proactive about fire safety by visiting to learn how to best protect their homes from fire and make sure they have an evacuation plan in place.

He said it’s important for community members to stay vigilant; with current conditions in California, “it’s not if another wildfire is coming, it’s when,” Mohler said.

For more information on the Lowell Fire, call 530-823-4083 or go to

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email or call 530-477-4230.

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