Tuesday, 28 May 2024

County's wildfires continue to wind down

LAKE COUNTY – The wildfires that have burned thousands of acres of wildland in Lake County and filled the air with thick smoke over the past week continued to diminish on Friday as firefighters increased containment levels.

The Walker Fire east of Clearlake Oaks and the Soda Complex in the Mendocino National Forest both continued to slow, according to reports from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, respectively.

Cal Fire reported that the Walker Fire, at 14,500 acres, was 85-percent contained. The fire was caused, according to investigators, by the metal undercarriage of a vehicle striking a rock, as Lake County News reported Friday.

A total of 592 personnel with 15 Cal Fire crews, 37 engines, three helicopters, 21 bulldozers and 11 water tenders continued working on putting out the fire on Friday, officials reported.

The cost to fight the fire to date is now $2.2 million, Cal Fire reported. It's expected to be fully contained by Saturday.

The four-fire Soda Complex on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District had burned an estimated 2,830 acres by Friday, according to a report from National Forest spokesperson Phebe Brown. An additional 446 acres is burning in 51 fires – referred to as the June ABCD Misc Complex – in other parts of the forest.

The lightning-caused fires include the Big, 775 acres, 40-percent contained; the Back, 1,500 acres, 80-percent contained; the Mill, 400 acres, 0-percent contained; and the Monkey Rock, 160 acres, 0-percent contained, according to Brown. The entire complex was reported to be 50-percent contained.

On Friday fire crews continued to complete the control lines on the Big and Back fires, Brown reported. Reconnaissance started on the Mill Fire and the Monkey Rock Fire was being be monitored.

One firefighter among the 245 reported to be on the Soda Complex suffered an injury, although particulars on the injury were not available late Friday. Another 83 firefighters were working on the forest's other fires.

Brown reported that Pogie Point Campground at Lake Pillsbury is closed and being used as a sleeping area for firefighters. Elk Mountain Road at the Bear Creek Road junction and near Soda Creek remain closed by Lake County officials due to the Back Fire.

While the fires are dying down in Lake County, they continue to rage in Mendocino County, where officials reported late Friday that a series of lightning-caused fires have burned 27,000 acre, with only 5-percent containment. Seventy-two fires remain active.

Air quality remains poor

The Mendocino fires have been the primary source of the smoke entering Lake County's air basin, Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Friday.

Reynolds said there may be a weather break Saturday that could temporarily improve local air quality, with winds predicted to come from the southwest instead of the prevailing west to northwest winds.

Local monitoring has shown Lake County's air quality is violating state and federal health-based standards, Reynolds said. In the case of particulate in the air, the standards have been exceeded by as much as 277 percent, and are characterized as moderate to unhealthy air quality.

Reynolds said air quality conditions are expected to continue until the fires are out.

Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait advises residents near the fires to be prepared. People with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung or heart diseases should make sure that they have at least a five-day supply of any prescribed medications, according to Tait. Individuals with asthma should carefully follow their asthma management plans. Anyone, regardless of known health

conditions, should seek medical attention if they experience unusual symptoms of chest

Residents who live near the affected areas should be prepared to stay indoors, avoid vigorous physical activity and check for a "recirculation" function on the air conditioner, Tait advised. Sports or other outdoor activities should be moved indoors or rescheduled.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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