New fires prompt evacuation orders, warnings

New KNP Complex Fire threatens residents in Silver City, Cabin Cove and Sycamore, leads to evacuation warning for portion of Three Rivers

TULARE COUNTY – Lightning from last week sparked several fires in Tulare County’s portion of the Sequoia National Forest. One fire has already prompted an evacuation order for residents in Silver City, Cabin Cove and Sycamore. Sheriff Mike Boudreaux also issued an evacuation warning for a portion of Three Rivers.

The evacuation order for Silver City, Cabin Cove and Sycamore indicates there is an immediate threat to life and property, and anyone in the way is instructed to leave right away. The Exeter Memorial Building is a temporary evacuation point. Residents from the same area last year were directed to the memorial building when the SQF Complex fire forced residents to flee their homes for a period of time. The Red Cross was put on stand by then. Their role is to help evacuees find shelter in a hotel or motel.

The evacuation warning for Three Rivers covers all points on both sides of Highway 198, east of the intersection of North Fork Drive, and includes all side roads that connect to the highway east of North Fork Drive.

These warnings and orders were prompted by the KNP Complex Fire, made up for the Colony Fire in the Yucca Drainage near Crystal Cave Road and the Paradise Fire located south of the middle fork of the Kaweah River, and growing. As of Monday, the fire had consumed 1,037 acres and started on Friday morning, Sept. 10. So far the fire is 0% contained.

On Tuesday the National Park Service announced that the fire made a “downhill run” and crossed the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway.

“As a result of this, the parks are evacuating employees from the Ash Mountain Headquarters Complex and nearby housing areas,” a park service press release stated.

Fire suppression efforts are already underway according to the National Park Service. They noted that the Cabin Fire, also started as a part of the Sept. 9 lightning storm, grew to two acres and was largely contained. However the two fires that make up the KNP Complex Fire are in danger or getting out of hand, and out of caution access to the park is restricted.

Last weekend the Generals Highway closed to uphill traffic from the Sequoia Entrance Station to the Giant Forest Museum. Potwisha Campground also closed on Sunday evening due to its proximity to the Colony Fire. Buckeye Flat Campground was also closed over the weekend due to its proximity to the Paradise Fire.

“These areas will remain closed until the fire threat is diminished. More closures may be necessary in the coming days,” a National Park Service press release stated.

Windy fire

Lowly contained as well, and also started during the Sept. 9 storm is the Windy Fire. As of Monday the fire was at 974 acres. On Tuesday, it was 0% contained.

Currently the fire is burning on the Tule River Indian Reservation and is currently well established to the west of Slate Mountain, Mule Peak and Onion Meadow Peak.

Vegetation in the fire area includes chaparral, dense brush, grass and timber which includes dead conifers and oak trees. The fire is expected to continue to spread through the dry, drought-stricken fuels and has already impacted the Giant Sequoia National Monument and burned into the Peyrone Sequoia grove. The fire is also threatening or impacting numerous cultural and historical sites, cabins, campgrounds and sensitive species habitats.

The fire is currently moving south towards Mule Meadow, and east towards Nobe Young Meadow. The Windy Fire is 4 miles from the community of Ponderosa, 5 miles from Johnsondale and 6 miles from Camp Nelson. Local residents, please continue to monitor fire progress.

Firefighters will continue to take opportunities to contain the fire’s edge when safely possible with the limited resources available. They will also be using roads, ridges and other natural and manmade features when direct attack is not possible with the limited operational resources currently assigned. Additional operational resources have been requested. This is a full suppression fire.

Other fires and air

Before last week’s fire-starting storm, the largest fire Tulare County was dealing with was the Walkers Fire in the national park. While it sprawled early on, it did not pose any danger to live-in structures, although it had threatened a historic cabin for a brief time. As of Monday that fire does not seem to pose an existential threat at 98% containment and only 8,777 acres consumed.

The nearby French Fire in Kern County was also rather mild compared to fires in the recent past. Also at 98% containment, the French Fire consumed 26,535 acres as of Monday.

Air quality in Tulare County has been relatively good for much of the summer despite wild fires raging in the northern part of the state. But now that the KNP fire has begun, the air is noticeably filled with smoke and particulate matter (PM). Now the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has issued an air quality advisory for the entire Valley.

“Particulate matter from wildfires may affect the entire San Joaquin Valley over the coming days. The district warns residents being impacted by smoke to remain indoors to reduce their exposure to particulate matter emissions,” the district stated on Monday.

Particulate matter can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Those with existing respiratory conditions, are especially susceptible to the health effects of PM.

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