Downtown Quincy was open for business Saturday despite an evacuation advisory to neighborhoods south of the Plumas County courthouse.
Residents shopping and chatting with neighbors kept a wary eye on the ridge just above town, where flames had been visible during the night until smoke obstructed the view.
“Watching those spot fires in the dark – they were really close to our street,” said Laurie Powell, whose house on Alder Street is a half-mile from the nearest flames.
The Minerva fire, which started July 29 in several places about 3 miles southwest of Quincy, had grown to 3,657 acres by Saturday.
Heat and strong winds Friday afternoon sent embers into a dry, heavily timbered area, which includes the watershed that supplies domestic water to the rural community. Firefighters made minimizing the impacts to that municipal supply a high priority, said Michelle Carbonara, a public information officer with the South Central Sierra management team.
They continued setting backfires Saturday hoping to consume the fuel as the fire was backing down the slope toward Quincy, she said. Those operations went “just as planned – really well,” said Carbonara.
The largest of the spot fires early Saturday was around 10 acres, said Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood.
He issued the voluntary evacuation order after U.S. Forest Service officials contacted him late Friday and warned of increasing danger to Quincy. Smoke was too heavy Saturday morning to offer the visibility required to operate helicopter and other air support, said Hagwood.
Before the smoke closed in, Hagwood could see from his yard individual trees catching fire in Boyle Ravine, a steep slope on the north side of Claremont Ridge above Quincy.
“I’ve got all my stuff packed. So do my folks up the street,” he said.
With light rain falling and a lack of wind early Saturday afternoon, Hagwood was optimistic: “I hope this is the day they make progress on this fire.”
Powell and her husband have already moved their pets and valuables to a safer place. If they are ordered to evacuate, they will, said Rod Powell, a Quincy volunteer fireman.
“These firefighters need all the room they can get to maneuver around here,” he said.
An evacuation center at the LDS Church on Bellamy Lane had six occupants Friday night.
Forest Service officials expect to have a complete containment line around the Minerva fire by Aug. 12.