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The Fires Of July 2018


Friday, July 27

TWO VEGETATION FIRES BROKE OUT in Mendocino County Friday afternoon the 27th of July, sending large plumes of gray-ish smoke into Mendocino County’s summer air visible for miles around. These two fires began when California’s firefighting capacity was already thin and tired from fires throughout the state.

The “Ranch fire” off Highway 20 near the Buffalo Ranch and the junction of the Potter Valley Road is now well over 600 acres and growing.

The “River fire” near Talmage east of Ukiah produced evacuation warnings that included the County’s Office of Education, which began preliminary evacuation about 4pm Friday afternoon. The Friday afternoon warning covered from the 6800 block of Old River Road to the Yokayo Rancheria. 

Both fires, burning east of 101 towards Lake County and less than twenty miles from each other, steadily picked up momentum all afternoon Friday.

6:20pm: 3,720 households on the Mendocino Coast and the Anderson Valley lose power. 

The AVA switched to our land line and called the PG&E and actually got through to a pleasant young woman in Sacramento who said yes, 2800 customers were out in “your area” and that a crew had been dispatched to find the problem and fix it. Power was restored in AV about 8:10pm. (How do we know she was young? Slightly nasal delivery, mild uptalk at end of each statement, a few too many adverbs of the ‘like’ variety.)

7pm: AV Fire Chief Andres Avila makes plans to “backfill” Calfire’s Boonville Fire Station (which was emptied out to fight the Ukiah fires) with a four man crew. That crew may be dispatched with an engine and tender to Ukiah fires, at which point more local volunteers will be requested to backfill Boonville again… A huge plume of white smoke rising over south Ukiah is visible from South Boonville. Both fires are raging uncontrolled.

7PM: The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is requesting immediate evacuation in the following areas: South from the 8000 block of Old River Road to the area of the roundabout at Highway 175, including all residences feeding onto University Road and all areas feeding onto Old River Road west to the Russian River.

7:30: ‘RANCH FIRE’ (Potter Valley): 175-plus acres - 0% Contained And 1 reported firefighter injury. 

8:10pm Friday: (From Bruce McEwen in Ukiah) — Sirens going off down the streets all day, steady stream of fire-bombers gunning their engines overhead, smoke filling up the valley and old people in the trailer park, packing up overnight bags, a few keepsakes, identification cards, passports, and any kind of readily negotiable currency, standing by to evacuated...

10:20pm: Calfire reports that the River Fire, which began not far from Hopland, is up to 4,000 acres with no containment. “Ground resources, as well as aircraft, are actively working to suppress this fire. High temperatures and aggressive fire behavior are hindering firefighting efforts. The fire is burning a mix of grass and oak woodland. Threat to the UC Berkeley Hopland Research and Extension Center. 1 residence and one outbuilding destroyed so far.” 121 firefighters on scene with 12 engines and two helicopters, 8 dozers deployed.

MENDOCINOSPORTSPLUS is the go-to site for up-to-date and accurate information in emergency fire situations as presently faced by NorCal and Mendocino County. MSP is a Facebook page maintained by Paul McCarthy who does a remarkable job staying abreast of fast-moving events from his command center in Elk.

FROM FRANK HARTZELL: Nice to live in Fort Bragg but Ca is being ravaged by heat that is way worse than anytime in my lifetime. So glad the GOP thinks this is a great time to stop working on climate change and remove all the future car pollution standards, which actually helped USA be competitive in car quality again.


On Friday, July 27, 2018, the two major fires that broke out Friday afternoon not far from Potter Valley and Hopland are being referred to as the Mendocino Complex Fire. There have been mandatory evacuations and evacuation advisories for both fires. 

SHELTERS OPEN at Mendocino College, Redwood Riders Arena for horses, as well as the Ukiah Animal Shelter. More shelters will be made available should the need arise. 

Due to these fires that have resulted in threats to critical infrastructure including public safety communications systems, structural damage and evacuations of several portions of the County, a condition of extreme peril to life and property now exists in Mendocino County and a Local Emergency has been declared. 

FRIDAY EVENING, with two large fires burning east of Highway 101 close enough to be considered one "complex" by CalFire, the power went out in Anderson Valley and areas of the Mendocino Coast, and in the sudden, almost eerie silence, it was as if we were all holding our collective breath in anticipation of worse.

Saturday, July 28

THE TWO FIRES exploded overnight, Friday night to Saturday morning, with the Hopland fire forcing a mandatory evacuation of residents of the Hopland rez and Casino area, Fetzer Vineyards, the UC Berkeley Hopland Research and Extension Center.

CAL FIRE spokeswoman Tricia Austin describes the fire's volatility as "extreme fire behavior" occurring in precipitous terrain. Some 120 firefighters struggled all day Saturday in 100-degree heat to keep the fire out of Lakeport. Highway 175 is closed. 

FARTHER NORTH but also in Mendocino County roughly twenty miles north of the Hopland Fire, the Ranch fire, not far from Potter Valley, also blew up overnight from 1,000 acres to 3,500 acres as of Saturday morning. It is burning northeast through mostly uninhabited rangeland. Seven firefighters have been injured battling the blazes.

SATURDAY NOON: The River Fire, which began just east of Hopland, was imperiling Lakeport. CalFire’s Air Attack said the fire had "drastically increased" with "torching” in trees and "significant runs through the brush." The spotter plane said the distance from the fire to Lakeport was "two miles by air, a little farther on the ground." They updated that distance to "five miles by air" but there is little in the way to stop the fire... At 11:03 am, dispatch said there was "an immediate need for Strike Teams in Lakeport."

HIGHWAY 175 was closed from Hopland to Mathews Road at the west side of Lakeport.

THE BLAZE burning east from Hopland up and over the mountain traversed by Highway 175 was five miles from Lakeport by 11am Saturday morning, and the authorities were advising townspeople they should be prepared to leave. By 1:30pm, the Lakeport evacuation became mandatory. The area to be evacuated includes all areas west of Hwy 29 between Highland Springs Road and 11th Street/Scotts Valley Road, and west to the Lake/Mendocino County Line. A shelter has been established at Mountain Vista Middle School in Kelseyville. 

TRUMP issued an emergency declaration for California on Saturday, allowing counties affected by wildfires to receive federal assistance. 

FROM CHP UKIAH SATURDAY AFTERNOON: Today one of our officers cited a driver for throwing a lit cigarette out of a moving vehicle on US-101 south of Talmage. Not only is this behavior dangerous it is also a crime. Fire danger is high and as everyone in the Ukiah area can see our fire fighters are already busy fighting multiple fires.

AIR TANKERS were on “hold” at the Mendocino Fire Complex Saturday afternoon - but a new incident in Napa County - the “Steele Fire” — ordered them south from Ukiah to fight it.

SHERIFF ALLMAN: Please do not be offended but what I’m about to say. I’m going to guess I’ve given my personal cell phone number to over 2000 people. I appreciate the day-to-day contact we have and the relationship on Facebook. However, when a fire or major disaster happens, and you send me text questions regarding evacuations or road closures, it diverts my attention from other things that I need to be doing. There are many websites where you can obtain the same information that I have. Thank you for not being offended; however, I really need to focus on things that need my attention.

SATURDAY NIGHT about 10:30 the power in Anderson Valley and the Mendocino Coast went out again as we were preparing to post the on-line edition of the ava. Power restored just after 3am But then our internet connection was lost. We weren’t back on line until 8am.

Sunday, July 29

SUPES TO MAKE DISASTER OFFICIAL: Tuesday morning, 9am. Discussion and Possible Action Including (1) Making of a Determination that an Emergency Situation Exists Within Mendocino County and (2) Adoption of a Resolution Declaring a Local Emergency Related To the Mendocino Complex Fire.

AS OF SUNDAY EVENING, CalFire was saying the “Mendocino Complex Fire” had burned over 14,500 acres, but some later estimates have it at over 30,000 acres, and at only 5% containment. 

POWER was out much of Sunday afternoon throughout Mendocino and Lake counties beginning at 2:30pm, rebooting a little before 8pm.

THE WILDFIRES that began Friday early afternoon in Mendocino County about 20 miles apart had, by Sunday, burned well into Lake County, with mandatory evacuations commencing Sunday afternoon for Lakeport, Upper Lake, Nice, and the Pine Mountain area of Potter Valley (East of Potter Valley Road). Firefighters continue to work in steep terrain and hundred-degree days, with the fires large enough on some fronts to create their own wind in addition to the usual summer afternoon westerlies.

THE RANCH FIRE burning northeast of Ukiah into Lake County nearly tripled in size to 13,242 acres by Sunday morning, while the River Fire twenty miles to the south that began just north and east of Hopland was smaller in area but had burned nearly into Lakeport by Sunday afternoon.

BOTH FIRES are called the Mendocino Complex by CalFire. So far, four homes have been lost, but CalFire says more than 4,500 structures, mostly in Lake County, are threatened. Some residents insist that the Mendo Complex is short on firefighting capacity because it has been diverted north to the raging Carr Fire in Shasta County. Locals noted that the Ukiah Airport where CalFire aircraft are dispatched from was quiet Sunday afternoon. CalFire said 820 men and women were on the line at the two Mendo blazes. Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport began evacuating patients around 4:15pm. Monday morning, the Lake County Jail was evacuated to Alameda County.

POWER WENT OUT in both Lake and Mendocino counties at 2:30pm, Sunday, but was restored at 7:45pm. The Ranch (Potter Valley) Fire forced the closing of Highway 20 near the Lake-Mendo county line at 3pm Sunday. Lakeport's advisory evacuation order was made mandatory at 3:30pm Sunday afternoon when we also learned that the Ranch Fire had burned north into the Pine Mountain area of east Potter Valley.

JAMES MARMON, LAKE COUNTY, 3:10PM Sunday: Both fires have blown up, Mandatory evac of “all” of Lakeport. 

WITHOUT POWER to the ava bunker in central Boonville, we got our news of the great world outside from KZYX which, to be gentle, was sporadic, often contradictory and altogether incompetent. For instance, about 4pm an announcer advised Upper Lake evacuees to drive south on Highway 20, which runs east-west.

ACCORDING to Bay Area news reports, two "Vlats," the monster air tankers, had been assigned to the Mendo Complex Fire. They apparently continued north to Shasta County whose rampaging conflagration is considered the more serious, having claimed six lives so far and is now, as of Monday morning, imperiling Weaverville to the west of Redding.

THERE ARE 17 major fires burning in California as of Sunday, consuming more than 200,000 acres so far.

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S tourist-dependent businesses took a fairly large hit Sunday when the power went out. Most businesses in Ukiah and Boonville, including the new CostCo in Ukiah, and Boonville closed immediately.

VEHICLES in search of fuel pulled in and out of our neighbor here in Boonville, the Redwood Drive-In, at one point filling the businesses parking lot. No power, no fuel pumps. The tenuousness of industrial civ is never more obvious than during a power outage.

THE SHERIFF and CalFire have issued timely updates, as have local on-line media when the power is on. But the announcements stop when the sun goes down, leaving us all to wonder at the extent of the overnight damage we won’t know until the first CalFire briefing at 7am. 

NO SURPRISE, the Mendo Complex Fires moved rapidly east and northeast Sunday afternoon and through Sunday night. CalFire said 50,000 acres had been burned, with Lakeport and Upper Lake being fiercely defended by crews fighting the blaze all night.

PG&E HAS DENIED persistent rumors that the power outages were intentional, but the precise timing of the outages has left people wondering if the giant monopoly isn’t shutting things down in some kind of overly cautious preventative maneuver. One unconfirmed report had it that two of PG&E’s three major trunk lines to the Northcoast were out of service, and one was handling the load of all three.

THE NEW NORMAL? With summers now an average of two weeks longer, winters are shorter, hence a longer burning period.

ON FIRE-PROOFING ONE'S DWELLING: [1] Wood framed houses can be made relatively fire safe. Here is a clear and comprehensive paper published through UC Cooperative Extension on how to “fire harden” a home: There are other factors involved as well. Last autumn I saw a home near Calistoga that burned. It had a metal roof and stucco siding. But it also had juniper growing directly under the eave. Juniper (as well as most aromatic plants) burn like grease. A hot fire under the eave is a ticket to ride for a home ignition. Likewise, firewood or construction scraps under the deck, against the wall, etc. can undermine the use of safer materials. So in essence, achieving a fire hardened home involves an equation with many variables, and small details count heavily. [2] I noticed on the drone videos of burnt subdivision that there were frequent patches of large coniferous trees still standing and not skeletonized. They must be somewhat non contributing to fire. Has anyone done an inventory of these kinds of trees? [3] Built my house in Piercy with ‘steel studs’. Would imagine if a fire was hot enough the framing might warp a bit, but afterwards you could simply re-sheet the thing in what ever form it took, and win all kinds of awards. Aside from that, it’s bug proof, straight as an arrow & no tree deaths. Been using it back East for years, but carpenters hate the stuff!

Monday Into Tuesday

From Betsy Cawn In Lake County:

“Community Meeting” scheduled for 5 pm yesterday at the Kelseyville Middle School was cancelled.

Have heard that Middletown Rancheria shelter is full; people showing up here this morning slept in the parking lot there last night.

Moose Lodge has showers available from a Sebastopol outfit (Community Event Services). Many grateful refugees.

* * *

Lake County Community Awareness

Another great resource (top of the page: “LOCAL EMERGENCY RESOURCES”) in general. Will be much needed in the “aftermath."

* * *

In lieu of local GOOD info; no radio broadcast from Lakeport since yesterday, profoundly erroneous rumors flying.

Visibility at Moose Lodge (Hwys 20+53) dismal, particulate matter continuous downfall. Have heard that all available lodging south of Redding’s evac area is taken by their evacuees, south through Williams. 

Nowhere to go from here; Lodge “campground” is packed, many older/disabled individuals with their animal companions, but amazing serenity for the most part.

CalFire: California Statewide Fire Summary

Monday, more than 12,000 firefighters remain on the lines of 17 large wildfires burning across California. To date, these fires have burned almost 240,000 acres and damaged or destroyed over 1,000 structures. An additional 25,000 homes continue to be threatened by these fires, and more than 52,000 residents have been evacuated. 

Hot and dry conditions persist across the state. In Northern California, poor overnight humidity recovery is continues, and southwest to northwest winds with gusts 25-35 mph are forecast in the coastal mountains into the west side of the Sacramento Valley each afternoon and evening through Tuesday, increasing the fire danger. Southern California temperatures will remain above normal, with potential for isolated thunderstorms in some parts of the region. 

With the extreme fire conditions, don’t wait to evacuate! Prepare now and GO! early. If you see fire approaching, don’t wait to be told to leave. 

Lake County Jail Evacuated

On July 29th, 2018 the Lake County Sheriff’s Office evacuated the Lake County Jail related to the River/Ranch fires. This was done with the assistance of CDCR, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. 285 inmates were moved and are being housed in Alameda County. Lake County Correctional and Medical Staff are being utilized in Alameda County to care and oversee the inmates from Lake County. There are currently no accommodations for visitation of Lake County inmates in Alameda County. 

Lake County CA Sheriff's Department

1220 Martin St, Lakeport, CA 95453

Calfire Lifts Hopland Evac Order Monday Afternoon

Repopulation July 30, 2018 at 12:00 P.M.

Evacuation orders have been lifted and residents may return to the following areas: 

Community of Hopland, including the Hopland Rancheria (Hopland Band of Pomo Indians) 

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has reduced the Evacuation Order to an Evacuation Warning in the following areas: 

South of 8000 Old River Road, east of the Russian River, north of Highway CA- 175, west of mile marker 5.6 on Highway CA-175; 

Evacuated areas east of mile marker 5.6 on Highway CA-175, north of Highway CA- 175, west of the Mendocino-Lake County Line, and south of the fire remain under an Evacuation Order. 

SAFETY MESSAGE – The public is reminded to stay vigilant on current fire conditions. Please continue to adhere to road closures and any evacuation warnings. A reminder to drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel in the area. There will be smoke in the respective areas as firefighters continue firefighting operations. If at any time you feel unsafe, please call 911. 

Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Tribal Health, and the Lakeview Clinic are all closed due to the mandatory evacuations. Adventist Health Hospital and Adventist Health Clinics in Clearlake, Middletown and Kelseyville are operating as normal. For emergency refills and non-emergency needs please go to one of the clinics as not to overwhelm the emergency department. Wreaking havoc on countless people. KPFZ is back on the air. 

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office issued Mandatory Evacuations for the area of Kelseyville and Finley as the River Fire expanded early afternoon Monday. According to the press release, “The Mandatory Evacuation area is north of the Sonoma-Lake-Mendocino County Line, east of Highland Springs Road, south of Clear Lake, and west of Bottle Rock Road extending north to Clear Lake State Park including the communities of Kelseyville and Finley.”

* * *

AT TUESDAY DAWN, both fires continued to burn but, as CalFire reported, the lines approximately a thousand firefighters had drawn around populated areas of Lake County had held. The lines protecting the hill dwellers of the ridges east of Potter Valley had also held. Both fires, as of this Tuesday morning, seemed to have lost the vitality seen Friday and Saturday when many evacuation orders had been recommended, then made mandatory.

BOTH FIRES remain under investigation. Predictably, rumors of arson are prevalent but no information as to the origins of the fires has been released. The Ranch Fire started near the landmark Buffalo Ranch on Highway 20, not far from the junction of 20 and the Potter Valley Road. It was called in on Friday (27 July) at 12:03pm.

THE RIVER FIRE near Hopland was called in an hour later at 1:01pm Friday.

FIREFIGHTERS from as far away as the state of Maine are among the agencies on the fire lines in Mendocino County.

* * *

WHAT SEEMED to be a routine albeit emergency meeting of the Supervisors Tuesday morning turned rhetorically fiery when Sheriff Allman took the podium. After praising the stellar performances of his deputies "in a situation they have unfortunately become familiar with," the Sheriff said he wanted to give a "shout out to County employees who know that they are emergency services workers and came in to answer the phones and help out." The Sheriff then denounced "the approximately 90 percent of County employees who either don't answer their phones or return phone calls. They may not understand they are emergency services workers. That we have people who are avoiding their responsibilities as public servants irritates me." The Sheriff added that "the supervisors should be fully aware, and the CEO provide a list of employees who stepped up."

SUPERVISOR BROWN said she was disappointed and thought "it was important to have a list of the County employees who did come in. We all do trainings for emergencies and should be available."

CEO ANGELO began by praising the work of Heidi Dunham of Human Resources for her efficient organizing of the County's Office of Emergency Services, then seconded Sheriff Allman's frustration with the County workers who had not shown up to do their secondary duty as emergency services workers. The CEO, as always speaking in the calmly dulcet tones of the experienced hatchet person she is, clouded up and stormed all over the no-shows. "My plan is to send letters to all the employees we contacted who did answer the phone — it is July and August and some employees are on vacation — but those employees who refused to come in will be getting a letter in their personnel file because this is a very serious issue… We have 1205 employees; every single one of them should be aware when there is a fire in our county or near our county and should be ready to come in."

MORE STARTLINGLY, CEO ANGELO declared, "We had two department heads who refused to allow their staffs to come in and respond. Any department head who says no, I really take exception with." The names of the two refuse-nik department heads were unnamed as we went to press, but if they are unelected, at will employees, their heads should say goodbye to their lower anatomies as Angelo ominously concluded, "They will be dealt with." (Supervisors Croskey and Hamburg did not attend Tuesday's meeting "by pre-arrangement," which seems to mean they phoned to say they wouldn't be present. One wonders how many of the Supervisors "responded" to the weekend fire emergency.) 

One Comment

  1. Pat Kittle August 1, 2018

    There’s never a welcome time to say this, so this is as good a time as any:

    The human population of California is already far too high to be sustainable, no matter what we do trying to accommodate it. That should be obvious by now.

    And inviting the whole world to move here (“sanctuary”) is not helping.

    Is that too much cognitive dissonance? So far, yes.

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