Favorable weather allows firefighters to directly fight Rough fire

Fire crew members stand watch along Highway 180 with Hume Lake located in the far background behind the hill Saturday.
Fire crew members stand watch along Highway 180 with Hume Lake located in the far background behind the hill Saturday.

Favorable weather Saturday and Sunday allowed firefighters to attack the Rough fire directly from the ground.

Kevin Slusarski, a U.S. Forest Service information officer assigned to the Rough fire, said burning operations were successful and firefighters want to take advantage of recent light winds. On Saturday, they switched from indirect suppression – using aircraft or waiting for the fire to reach them at the containment line – to a direct attack.

“Now, thanks to the favorable weather and conditions, they are able to go direct to the line where the fire is coming,” he said. “Most of that is on the east side of Hume Lake.”

On Friday, the Kings Canyon Lodge became the first structure claimed by the fire. By Sunday morning it had spread to 47,396 acres on national forest and parkland, and still was only 7 percent contained.

There was little active burning overnight, which allowed firefighters to take further control of the fire, particularly in the Hume Lake area. The Forest Service said the threat to Hume Lake has been greatly reduced as a result of favorable weather, successful burning operations and direct suppression efforts.

Firefighters continued suppression efforts from the northwest side, continuing in the Ten Mile Creek area near Landslide Campground. Aircraft also continue to be used.

Slusarski said the wind shifted from southwest to west. Smoke was expected to go toward the wilderness and not affect residents as much Sunday, he said.

Despite the ease, Slusarski said fire is unpredictable and weather and wind could shift again. But he said firefighters feel good about the progress they’ve made.

Slusarski said Kings Canyon Lodge remains the only confirmed damaged structure but firefighters are continuing structure protection and mitigation efforts, moving flammable objects like canisters of fuel and wood panels away from structures in the fire’s path.

A Tumblr blog page called Hume Lake Rough Fire Info sought prayers for the fire to stay away from the Hume Lake basin, the protection of cabins at Weston Meadows, the owner of Kings Canyon Lodge and for Bearskin Meadow Camp. It also sought prayers for rain – or snow.

The blog noted that back fires are helping crews hold containment lines and direct the fire away from Hume Lake.

“Although not yet safe, we praise the Lord for each passing day as the burn area near Hume begins to cool,” the blog said.

Of greater concern now, the blog said, are Bearskin Meadow and the Diabetes Youth Families camp, and “the many campgrounds in the area. Please pray for the protection of those areas as well.”

The Grant Grove and Wilsonia areas of Kings Canyon National Park are closed to recreational activities. Visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks still can travel the Generals Highway from the Big Stump entrance station to the Ash Mountain entrance station, fire officials said.

On the northwest edge of the fire, crews were working to protect Pacific Gas & Electric Co. infrastructure in the Balch camp area. A community meeting was being held Sunday afternoon near Wishon reservoir.

Evacuation warning notices have been issued to residents of Sequoia Highlands, northeast of Dunlap. These communities include Crabtree, Sampson Flat, Davis Flat and Clover Meadows, and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is advising residents to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Andrea Castillo: 559-441-6279, @andreamcastillo