The Delta fire burns south of Flume Creek Ridge, the Castle Crags, the Grey Rocks and Red Mountain.
We have reached day 6 of the Delta Fire. It has now grown to 47,110 acres, making it roughly 1,000 acres larger than the now-contiguous Hirz Fire. Fortunately the fire has continued a slow advance it is now officially at 5% containment. I believe that the functional containment is actually much higher, considering the use of contingency line left from the Carr and Hirz Fires as well as the burned out areas of the Hirz, where there is little fuel left for the Delta to expand into. Nonetheless, the northwest side of the fire remains uncontrolled and continues its slow but inexorable advance up the Slate Creek drainage.
The smoke was awful yesterday but after the sun set the winds cleared it out in fairly swift fashion, leaving a night of clear stars. This morning was clear as well and, seeing some interesting clouds and minimal haze, I headed out to see what conditions were like. It made for a beautiful sunrise and lovely conditions up at the Old Ski Bowl.
The good air quality at the Old Ski Bowl also meant I had a good opportunity to look south and observe the Delta Fire’s activity. The sky was haze free all the way to the plumes that were coming up from the northern part of the fire. All the smoke was blowing east. Strangely enough, though Red Mountain is right at the front line of one of the most active parts of the fire, the wind made it seem as though there was no smoke in that vicinity at all. It also meant that the area burned by the Hirz Fire was totally blanketed in a deep layer of smoke.
This raises the question about what is going on with the Delta Fire at this time. Thankfully there are positive developments. First, as noted, there is some official containment of the fire, though the functional containment is probably significantly higher than the listed 5%. Anything is good at this point, though. Second, also as noted, the fire continues to advance but only slowly. Though it is troubling that it has reached the area around Red Mountain, I am hopeful that the rugged, rocky terrain will function as a natural fire line and keep the flames from advancing north and west from there.
Also good news is the ongoing and increasing back fire activity on Middle Ridge. This is the critical line that must be held, since this stands in the way of the route the fire must take in order to burn up the Sacramento River canyon and threaten all the communities that lie to the north. The good news is not limited to the back firing though. Crews have been working hard cutting in a hand line on the upper part of Middle Ridge. here the terrain is rockier and bulldozers are not likely to be useful. However, amidst the rocks, the vegetation is sparser and crews can clear that into a solid, defensible hand line. The map below give a clearer picture of this:
Note the line of ‘H’s’ extending north of the established fire line. This extends all the way to Baker Peak, which is one of the highest points along the ridge above Tamarack Lake.
Also important is the indication of a bulldozer line being prepared (marked by X’s and dots) further north, in Baker Hollow. I am really glad to say that, if these lines hold, it is highly likely that the Tamarack Lake basin will be spared! I can’t express how relieved I am that this may even be a real possibility. The Tamarack Lake Basin is one of the prettiest in the entire Klamath Mountains, with its rugged cliffs, gorgeous lakes, lush meadows and views of the craggy Grey Rocks all combining to make a very idyllic spot. While it is by no means guaranteed at this point, the fact that the line are being cut in in such a way that the fire might get saved is encouraging.
On the east side of the fire, the flames have expanded on into the burned out area left from the Hirz Fire. Fortunately, the old fire lines and the burned areas will keep the fires in check. The most vulnerable area is the Hazel Creek watershed, which meets the Sacramento River at Sims.
According to the above map, it does look as though containment lines are in place and under construction that will prevent the whole Hazel Creek drainage from going up in smoke. I am also encouraged that saving this area is even a possibility. I hope the efforts prove successful.
It is worth noting that the Union Pacific has been running a firefighting train through the canyon, spraying down the trees along the tracks and helping prevent it from burning. This has also allowed them to maintain the rail corridor through the canyon. This idea is affirmed by the testimony of trains that continue to fly past my house. As far as I-5, it is now open one lane in each direction.
In summary, the fire is still large, still advancing but significant gains have been made and some special places may be spared destruction. I hope this will be the case when it is all over. Now if we can just get some rain!
Click to enlarge the last couple days worth of fire activity: