Walker Fire passes 50,000 acres as other Northern California wildfires near containment

Fire crews are approaching full containment on several wildfires that started last week across Northern California.

Meanwhile, the state’s biggest blaze of 2019, the Walker Fire, has grown steadily to surpass 50,000 acres, and firefighters could face additional challenges as fire activity is expected to increase to start the weekend.

A handful of large wildfires and dozens of smaller ones were sparked last week by lightning, when patches of midweek thunderstorms passed through Northern California, according to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service.

Here is a summary of the major wildfires burning across Northern California as of 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Walker Fire

Size: 50,730 acres. Containment: 32 percent.

U.S. Forest Service crews work to hold containment lines on the Walker Fire on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. U.S. Forest Service

Burning in Plumas National Forest since Sept. 4, the Walker Fire has grown relatively slowly after exploding from 2,000 acres to 17,000 acres last Friday amid erratic wind conditions. It’s charred through nearly 80 square miles of wildland.

Cool temperatures and high humidity earlier this week calmed fire weather in the area of the blaze, located about 11 miles east of Taylorsville, but conditions are expected to get warmer and drier through the weekend, according to an incident update posted 6 a.m. Friday by the Forest Service.

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect in the Murdock Crossing and Stoney areas, according to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office. Highway 395 remains open.

Walker Fire in Plumas County

Red circles on this live-updating map are actively burning areas, as detected by satellite. Orange circles have burned in the past 12 to 24 hours, and yellow circles have burned within the past 48 hours. Yellow areas represent the fire perimeter.
Source: National Interagency Fire Center

No injuries have been reported and no structures have been destroyed, as 1,770 total personnel are working Friday morning to hold fire lines and defend structures threatened by the blaze.

The Walker Fire’s cause remains unknown.

Red Bank Fire

Size: 8,838 acres. Containment: 95 percent.

Sparked by lightning about 25 miles west of Red Bluff on Sept. 5, the Red Bank Fire has burned in a remote area with difficult firefighter access.

A total of 1,162 personnel were assigned to the fire as of Thursday evening, according to an incident update by Cal Fire.

Though the fire is 95 percent contained, firefighters face “unfavorable” weather that will remain a “challenge” through Saturday, a Friday morning incident report said

The Red Bank Fire has destroyed two structures, but none remain under threat and no evacuation orders or warnings remain in place. No injuries have resulted from the wildfire, Cal Fire says.

South Fire

Size: 3,434 acres. Containment: 20 percent.

Also sparked by lightning Sept. 5, the South Fire started just west of the Red Bank Fire, in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Firefighters face “extremely narrow roads, limited access, numerous snags and very steep terrain,” but have benefited from good weather conditions, the Forest Service said in incident updates Thursday and Friday. Crews observed minimal fire activity on the wildfire overnight, the Forest Service said in a Friday morning incident update.

No evacuation orders have been issued, but localized road and trail closures remain in place. More than 500 personnel are assigned to the containment effort.

Lime Fire

Size: 1,872 acres. Containment: 45 percent.

The smoke plume of the Lime Fire, as seen Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Klamath National Forest. U.S. Forest Service

Yet another fire believed to have started by a Sept. 5 lightning strike, the Lime Fire ignited in the Klamath National Forest.

The Forest Service said the Lime Fire and the nearby Kidder 2 Fire (165 acres and 43 percent contained as of Friday morning) were among at least 40 confirmed wildfires caused by lightning last week at Klamath National Forest.

Conditions will become warmer and drier in the area, reaching highs near 90 degrees through the weekend.

An evacuation warning put in place last Saturday by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office was lifted Wednesday evening.

A number of nearby recreational areas, including the Tree of Heaven Campground, will be closed through the end of November due to Lime Fire suppression efforts, according to the Klamath National Forest website.

“Extreme caution” is urged along Highway 96 in the area of the fire, the Forest Service said in an incident update.

No injuries or structure damage have been reported.

Lone Fire

Size: 5,737 acres. Containment: 95 percent.

Containment lines are holding on a 5,737-acre wildfire smoldering in Modoc National Forest, another fire believed to have sparked via lightning Sept. 5.

No further growth is expected, according to the Forest Service, as just 40 firefighters remain to monitor and mop up the fire.

No evacuation orders or closures are in place. No structure damage or injuries were reported.

Swedes Fire

Size: 496 acres. Containment: 98 percent.

Damage from the Swedes Fires west of Oroville, seen Sept. 9, 2019. Crews expect full containment on the Butte County wildfire by the end of Friday, Sept. 13. Cal Fire Butte Unit

The Swedes Fire, which started Saturday in Butte County just east of Oroville, is expected to be fully contained by the end of Friday, Cal Fire said in a morning incident update. Just two fire crews are assigned to the blaze.

Two structures have been destroyed by the Swedes Fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.