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Rice’s Fire Friday Update: Some allowed to return home

A Coulson C-130 air tanker drops retardant along a line of the Rice’s Fire during Tuesday’s initial firefight above Bridgeport Bridge and the South Yuba River State Park.
Photo: Courtesy Annita Kasparian

UPDATE Friday 8:30 a.m.:

The Rice’s Fire remains at 904 acres and is now 22% contained, according to an incident report release by Cal Fire Friday morning.

Thirteen firefighters have been injured fighting this fire, which started as an “uninhabitable structure fire“ that spread into the vegetation, according to the reports. The cause of the structure fire remains under investigation.

Full containment is expected July 5, the report states.



UPDATE Friday 7:32 a.m.:

Repopulation information

From Nevada County Sheriff’s Office:



Due to the aggressive work of CAL FIRE NEU and mutual aid partners on the #ricesfire, significant progress has been made that allows us to begin repopulation to the affected areas.

The Evacuation Orders for zones; NCO-E329 and NCO-E383 have been 𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐧𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐝 to an Evacuation Warning. There is still heavy first responder traffic in the area. There are still ongoing Evacuation Orders in portions of the area. Pleasant Valley Rd between Birchville Road and Bridgeport is open to 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 with valid ID – this will be monitored by CHP – Grass Valley.

Zone NCO-E029 has been split for re-population purposes. Only a portion of zone NCO-E029 has been downgraded to an Evacuation Warning, the rest remains under Evacuation ORDER.

Residences along the following roads in zone NCO-E029 remain under EVACUATION ORDER: Rices Crossing, Troost Trail, Den Court, Mark Court, Cranston Road. There is still heavy first responder traffic in the area.

Check community.zonehaven.com for Rices Fire updates.

When entering the burned area, residents need to be on alert for hot spots, rolling debris and other hazards. 𝐃𝐨 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐮𝐧𝐬𝐚𝐟𝐞.

As a reminder, there is still heavy first responder traffic in the area. Please travel though the area with caution.

UPDATE Thursday 1 p.m.

Due to firefighters using the Nevada County Fairgrounds as a staging area, Music in the Mountains is changes venues for this weekend’s SummerFest concerts, according to a press release. Read more here.

UPDATE at 10:25 a.m. Thursday

The Rice’s Fire remains at 904 acres, and is now 12% contained.

UPDATE at 7:50 p.m. Wednesday

From Cal Fire:

Rices, Vegetation Fire, Nevada County, Update

Rices Crossing Rd x Cranston Rd, 4 miles south of Dobbins

State DPA, SRA/FRA, Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit

• 904 acres brush and oak woodland, 10% contained

• Damage to 66kV transmission lines, threat to 230kV transmission lines

• Power outage in the area

• Threats exist to structures, critical infrastructure, endangered species, watersheds, cultural, and heritage resources

• Evacuation orders and warnings remain in place

• Road closures in the area

• Steep access making containment difficult

• Sacramento Regional IMT Type 3 assigned

Initially posted

The Rice’s Fire has now grown to over 900 acres as Wednesday evening with 0% containment, but there are successes to be had in the fire fight, declared Cal Fire Nevada Yuba Placer Unit Chief Brian Estes.

“The good news that we’ve seen out of it is that through the nighttime and early morning hours is that the fire did back its way down and it is sitting all the way at the Yuba River,” Estes said during a briefing Wednesday afternoon at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, where base camp for the more than 700 personnel assigned to the fire.

Turning the fairgrounds into fire camp has pushed out concerts scheduled there this week and weekend.

Wednesday morning the fire was mapped at 750-760 acres. By Wednesday afternoon the fire had reached the South Yuba River below the historic mining community of Birchville and was mapped at more than 900 acres.

Chief Estes is hopeful that the fire will be able to be kept on the Nevada County side of the Yuba River, but he has been preparing in case the blaze jumps the river.

“While that is our main concern for it not crossing the Yuba River, frankly we’re glad that it backed down during the nighttime hours during more moderate fire weather versus backing down there during what I’d expect we’d see this afternoon between 2 p.m and 6 p.m.,” Estes said.

A firefighter assesses the approaching fire along Troost Trail in rural Nevada County Tuesday as the Rice’s Fire has now burned more than 900 acres.
Photo: Elias Funez

“So what that allowed us to do is use dozers and hand crews to start to cut out those shoulders, which are where those sides of the fire come around to the head of the fire,” Estes said.

“So the head of the fire is down at the Yuba River. Right now we have stopped forward progress at the head at the river. The flanks on the side still have some forward spread. We’re working on those shoulders.”

Cal Fire Nevada Yuba Placer Unit Chief Brian Estes shows how firefighters are fighting the head of the Rice’s Fire which has now burned down to the Yuba River.
Photo: Elias Funez

He said there are areas in the watershed that are steep, “almost cliff like, where we cannot physically get people down. So as soon as the inversion layer popped this morning we just went in really really heavy with all our helicopters, fixed wing aviation, to start reinforcing the flanks with retardant air tankers and pounding with water dropping helicopters those areas down on the river.”

A helicopter carries a water bucket to be dropped on the Rice’s Fire Tuesday afternoon above Rice’s Crossing in Nevada County. Firefighters are working to keep the fire from crossing the Yuba River and into Yuba County.
Photo: Courtesy Annita Kasparian

Estes added that estimates of full containment by Friday would be optimistic at this point.

“We want to be very cautious about that especially as we move into the hot month of July, we do not want this thing hanging out into the weeks to follow,” he said.

EVACUATION SMOOTH

Sheriff Shannan Moon reported that evacuations and notices have gone smoothly, and that areas within the evacuated zones continue to have a heavy law enforcement patrol presence to ensure safety and protection for people’s belongings.

The French Corral area along the Nevada/Yuba County line remained under evacuation Wednesday afternoon. Areas to the north, northeast and east had evacuation warnings.

She emphasized that more Nevada County residents need to sign up for Code Red and know their evacuation zones.

“We saw a lot of folks that had received it and had the information. We still need more people to sign up for Code Red. We still need folks to understand the zoning, we had a lot of questions through 211 or dispatch center, the know your zone piece,” Moon said.

Flames from the Rice’s Fire billow into plume that could be seen from miles away Tuesday afternoon.
Photo: Courtesy Annita Kasparian

“For the rest of the community that maybe didn’t get affected by this particular fire, this is the eye opener,” Moon said.

“The season is here. Lets make sure that we’re all prepared and that we have our go bags and that we know our routes that we can check on our neighbors and families and friends. Make sure that everyone can stay connected with each other,” she said.

To sign up for Code Red visit online at ReadyNevadaCounty.org/EmergencyAlerts; call 211 or 1-833-DIAL211; Text ReadyNevadaCounty to 99411 and follow the prompt to register.

To know your evacuation zone visit, community.zonehaven.com, enter your address into the search bar, find your zone in the pop-up window and write it down.

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, email efunez@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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