SQF Fire finally fizzles out

The Sun-Gazette

Forest service says largest wildfire in Tulare County history is now 100% contained five months after being ignited by lightning

SPRINGVILLE – The largest wildfire in Tulare County history is finally over.

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Forest Service announced 100% containment of the SQF Complex Fire. The lightning-caused Castle and Shotgun Fires were discovered on Aug. 19, 2020, and later managed as one incident named the SQF Complex, which burned a total of 174,000 acres. The Castle Fire burned portions of the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument (129,975 acres), Inyo National Forest (12,283 acres), Sequoia National Park (18,292 acres), lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (728 acres), State (4,036 acres), County, and private lands (4,726 acres) and threatened the Tule River Indian Reservation.

The fire decimated the mountain communities of Cedar Slope, Alpine Village and Sequoia Crest, which lost three quarters of their cabins. The fire also burned portions of 20 giant sequoia groves including McIntyre, Alder Creek and Homers Nose groves.

Officials said the area will still have pockets of smoke that remain from the fire, not cause for alarm of a potential wildfire but still a hazard in and of itself. Smoldering debris around tree trunks continue to weaken fire-damaged trees, posing a hazard of them falling at any time. Smoldering stump holes and their roots can be found burning months after a wildfire, posing a hazard for anyone stepping near or on them.

“Once the area receives enough precipitation to fully extinguish remaining hot spots, including duff burning around tree trunks and deep inside stump holes and roots, the Forest Service hopes to re-open the area to the public,” stated District Ranger Eric LaPrice. “We are all hoping for more rain and snow to assist us in this effort. In the meantime, thank you for your patience while we keep the area closed to protect the public.”

Local firefighters will continue to patrol and monitor the fire’s edge, extinguishing hot spots that could spread beyond contained lines. Much work is left to be done on fire suppression repair; heavy equipment is anticipated to return in the spring to continue this effort. Forest officials have extended the closure of portions of the Sequoia National Forest through Jan. 31, 2021. Details of the Forest Closure and a map of the closed area can be found on Inciweb inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/article/7048/58930.

An Interagency Emergency Task Force continues to prepare for flash floods and debris flow, busily cleaning debris from culverts and drains to minimize impacts.

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