Fires

Rough fire grows to over 47,000 acres; still 3 percent contained

ezamora@fresnobee.com

The Rough fire, which has ripped through national forest and park land for 22 days, grew more than 5,000 acres overnight.

Saturday morning figures released by the multi-agency incident command team indicate the blaze has claimed 47,079 acres. It is still only 3 percent contained. Nearly 1,500 firefighters are working the fire, which began with a lightning strike on July 31 and grew exponentially over the last two weeks.

Rough fire information officer Michelle Eidam said at 1 p.m. Saturday that the blaze is expected to burn hotter and faster towards Hume Lake Christian Camps.

The most intense fire activity is in the area of the camps, and hotter, drier weather will speed the fire’s progress, Eidam said.

The fire management team is concentrating most of its resources on defending the camp at the southeastern point of the fire and the PG&E infrastructure to the northwest. Eidam said PG&E has voluntarily pulled its employees out of the area.

She said the incident command has yet to confirm that Kings Canyon Lodge burned down. She said an assessment crew was on its way and would report its findings sometime Saturday afternoon.

It is unknown if any fire crews were at or near the lodge when it burned down. The incident command team has stressed the importance of defending structures, and melted fire hoses surrounded the rubble on Friday.

Eidam said that firefighters are told to stop defending a building if they see an active fire bearing down on them.

“Our hoses aren’t going to do anything against a 50-foot wall of fire,” she said. “If you stay and try to fight that, you will die.”

Eidam speculated that if any firefighters were at the lodge when flames approached, they left for their own safety.

The incident command team has moved from Hume Lake Christian Camps to Squaw Valley. Fire teams will remain at the camp, which has so far been spared any damage despite the blaze’s growth around it.

Firefighters are currently backburning along Highway 180 and Ten Mile Road, the two avenues into Hume Lake Christian Camps, to cut Rough fire’s fuel supply.

A blog post on Hume Lake Christian Camps’ website said that the camp received a fuel shipment. Fire engines had nearly depleted the camp’s diesel supply.

The camp received a food shipment Saturday afternoon, just in time as its stores had nearly run out after feeding the firefighters for the last few days. Officials said they served breakfast to 308 firefighters on Saturday, and even more firefighters are served dinner at the camp each night.

The camp was filled with more smoke Saturday afternoon than it was on Wednesday.

The post said the fire has outflanked the backburning taking place near Ten Mile Road. Crews fear it will cross the road. This could cause the fire to burn to the south of Hume Lake in addition to the north and east, where it is currently raging.

In the north, crews are working to keep it from crossing Hume Road, the camp officials said.

Attempts to contact camp leadership on Saturday were not immediately successful.

The blog post ended with a prayer for all those involved, including Lewis Evans, owner of the Kings Canyon Lodge between Yucca Point and Cedar Grove. So far, the lodge appears to be the only building damaged by the blaze. It burned to the ground, but the incident command team has yet officially to report the destruction.

At 6 a.m. Saturday, the Grant Grove and Wilsonia areas of Kings Canyon National Park were closed to the public. Highway 180 was blocked off at the Highway 198 fork.

To the northwest, crews are still working to keep the fire from damaging Pacific Gas & Electric Co. infrastructure in the Balch Camp area.

Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said authorities will hold a community meeting on the Rough fire at 3 p.m. Sunday at the PG&E Recreation Center at 70185 Courtright Road.

This story will be updated.

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