Officials: Full containment of Lowell Fire approaches |

Officials: Full containment of Lowell Fire approaches

In this July 26 file photo, Nevada County firefighters protect a home off Chalk Bluff Road from the Lowell Fire.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

lowell fire

Location: In Steep Hollow drainage west of Alt

Acres burned/Containment: 2,303 acres/75 percent

Estimated containment: Aug. 3, 2015

Structures threatened: 54 in Placer and Nevada counties

Injuries: 6

Cooperating agencies: Cal OES, CHP, Nevada County Sheriff, Placer County Sheriff, USFS, BLM, and PG&E.

Total fire personnel: 1,722

Total fire engines: 139

Total fire crews: 47

Total airtankers: 2

Total helicopters: 7

Total dozers: 10

Total water tenders: 25

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

Nearly one week since it first sparked, firefighters are nearing full containment of the Lowell Fire, a more than 2,300-acre blaze in the Steep Hollow drainage west of Alta.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, Cal Fire reports the blaze to be 75 percent contained, and estimates the fire to be fully contained by Monday, despite withdrawing fire personnel from as many as 2,400 firefighters, to Friday’s count of 1,722.

“The biggest thing for us is it’s such heavy fuel loading that the mop-up operation is very extensive, and that’s what’s taking so much time right now,” Cal Fire Cpt. Mike Mohler said.

Cal Fire reports that monsoonal moisture has started to move into the area of the fire, and temperatures will slightly decrease, with a slight increase in humidity, over the weekend.

“Fuel, weather, and topography are our biggest battles, and anytime it gets cooler it’s a victory on our side.”Cal Fire Capt. Mike Mohler

Access to the fire is still challenging, but firefighters continue to engage in mop-up operations with minimal fire activity, though smoke may continue to impact surrounding communities.

“Fuel, weather, and topography are our biggest battles, and anytime it gets cooler it’s a victory on our side,” said Mohler. “The monsoonal flow coming in is a concern because most of it’s dry, so we are worried about erratic wind.”

Cal Fire units and other assisting agencies continue to set up a local base camp at the Nevada County Fairgrounds that is housing large equipment required to fight fires locally and throughout California. Currently, Cal Fire units are battling more than 15 fires statewide.

“I feel like our morale is good. We’re trying to get our firefighters as much rest as they can but when we get in these situations when we have a lot of fires it really taxes our resources,” said Mohler. “But I can tell you in the defense from the Lowell Fire, everybody is in great spirits.”

Local road closures include Red Dog Road at both Chalk Bluff and Buckeye Ridge roads. Banner Quaker Hill Road at Lower Greenhorn and Chalk Bluff roads, and Lowell Hill Road at Mule Spring Road have also been issued a road closure, according to the Cal Fire website.

There are currently around 54 structures threatened by the fire in Placer and Nevada counties, down from 1,550.

Evacuation warnings have been issued for the Steep Hollow Creek and Buckeye Ridge communities. Further evacuation warnings have been given for Chalk Bluff Road to Banner Quaker Road; all other evacuation warnings have been lifted.

The Tahoe National Forest is maintaining a forest closure with specified exemptions for the fire area, and the evacuation center at First Baptist Church in Grass Valley, and animal evacuation center on the fairgrounds both remain closed.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“We’re keeping evacuations at an advisory level,” Mohler said. “That means people can still go home, but we just want people to be vigilant if that evacuation order should change.”

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

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email or call 530-477-4236.

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