Fires

Latest: Fire crews hold line on Lassen County blaze, working to protect endangered bird species

Over the weekend, fire crews held the lines on the 3,340-acre fire threatening the prime habitat of a protected bird species, officials say.

The Ranch Fire ignited Thursday in Lassen County 13 miles northeast of Susanville near Horse Lake Road, the Bureau of Land Management reported. As of Sunday, the blaze was 65% contained.

More than 560 fire personnel are working to put out the blaze, and the bureau dispatched multiple helicopters, water tenders, bulldozers and engines. However, crews struggled for several days to contain the fire due to weather conditions.

“The fire was pushed by erratic wind (and) ... has spread into rocky terrain, limiting effective suppression to experienced hand crews and air support,” the bureau said in an earlier report. “(T)he fire could continue to spread east and northeast toward Horse Lake Flat.”

Two remote ranches and a historic cabin were evacuated. While no buildings have burned, the fire has consumed 300 acres of greater sage-grouse habitat, which mainly consists of sagebrush, according to the bureau.

This species, also known as the sagehen, has been listed as a species of special concern since 1992 in California, the state with the greatest greater sage-grouse population in North America, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The bird is native to the great basin portion of California, from eastern Siskiyou and northeastern Shasta counties to Owens Valley in Inyo County, Fish and Wildlife said in a report.

Their primary threats consist of inhabitable plant expansions, West Nile-positive mosquitoes and — most recently — fires.

The Ranch Fire ignited just more than 2 miles from the site of last week’s Horse Fire northeast of Susanville. which burned 131 acres and was 80 percent contained Wednesday.

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Caroline Ghisolfi, from Stanford University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and health care. She grew up in Milan, Italy.
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