Marin firefighters battle blazes as fires triggers ‘extreme’ conditions

Marin firefighters are battling wildfires raging to the north, including the Dixie fire that ballooned to nearly 60,000 acres Tuesday.

Central Marin fire Battalion Chief Ezra Colman, a strike team leader trainee, is part of a multi-agency strike team from Marin reassigned to the Bucks Lake wilderness area, about 10 miles north of Paradise, where the fire started last week. Working alongside Southern Marin fire Battalion Chief Matt Barnes, the strike team leader, they arrived in Chico on Tuesday after a five-day assignment supporting fire operations in Ashland, Oregon.

“It looks extremely active,” Colman said of the Dixie fire. “The plumes of smoke, it’s impressive. It’s showing no signs of slowing down.”

Marin County fire Chief Jason Weber said 54 firefighters from Marin agencies were part of two additional strike teams on the line, one at the Dixie fire and another at the Beckwourth Complex fire that has scorched about 105,00 acres as of Tuesday.

Marin’s crews joined more than 5,400 firefighters fighting five wildfires that have consumed more than 233,000 acres across the state.

“With (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicting a La Nina this fall, we are concerned that fire season will again be extended beyond our traditional end,” Weber said.

“This is especially concerning as the fall is when we typically see east-wind events,” he said. “Winds coupled with historically dry fuels is a very concerning combination.”

On Monday, the unusual weather conditions caused the Dixie fire to generate its own overhead thunderstorm, with wild winds and “extreme, extreme” conditions accelerating its rate of spread, the National Weather Service said.

The “pyro cumulonimbus” cloud system formed as the effects of a southwestern monsoonal surge reached the fire area in Butte County. Fast-rising hot air from the fire’s tallest columns combined with monsoonal moisture to create ideal conditions for violent weather.

“It’s very crazy,” said Cory Mueller, a National Weather Service meteorologist with the Sacramento region. “You don’t want to see lightning strikes coming off of a fire — it’s obviously dangerous for anyone fighting the fire, but when you see it, it means you’re likely having very intense fire growth.”

The Dixie fire remained relatively stable for several days — burning northeast and away from the footprint of the 2018 Camp fire — before exploding over the weekend.

The blaze had grown Tuesday by nearly 20,000 acres overnight and was about 15% contained. Two structures have been destroyed, with more than 800 more threatened.

Evacuation order and warning zones have been expanded to include Jonesville, Philbrook, High Lakes, Seneca, Bucks Lake, Snake Lake, Meadow Valley, Tollgate and the Highway 70 communities of Rock Creek, Storrie, Tobin, Belden and Twain. Highway 70 is closed between Jarbo Gap and Highway 89.

In a briefing, Cal Fire’s incident meteorologist Julia Ruthford said that the fire’s columns peaked at about 30,000 feet at the start of the week and climbed even higher Monday afternoon as the mid-level moisture gathered overhead.

“That led to some lightning out ahead of it and some really gusty, erratic winds due to that extreme, extreme conditions due to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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