Cooler temps help Castle firefighters; little hope for rain

PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL FIRE TULARE UNIT
Firefighters struggle to put out flames off Bear Creek Road.

By David Beasley

Firefighters battling the Castle fire are getting a little help from cooler temperatures and shorter days, a spokesman for the multi-agency incident management team said Monday.

“The weather today is supposed to be in the mid-70s,” down from the 80s and 90s, spokesman Mike Cole told the Kern Valley Sun. Warmer weather and longer days with intense sunlight add to the temperatures of the fires, making them more difficult to fight.

However, while the weather news is improving on one front, it remains elusive on another. The relative humidity is still expected to be about 15% in the next few days.

“Anytime we get below 20% that pretty much gives you active burning,” Cole said.

The “energy release component” a factor used to measure the intensity of the fire is at an “all time records,” Cole said. Another measure of intensity called the Haines Index is at 5 on a scale of 2-6.

As of Monday morning, the Castle Fire and the much smaller Shotgun fire had burned 137,508 acres and were 18% contained, Cole said. Many historic landmarks and communities were destroyed and more roadways have been shut down. Sequoia Crest Community, located near the Ponderosa Lodge, lost 42 structures, only 10 cabins remain. Jordan’s Lookout, located North East of Camp Nelson, was also destroyed. Generals Highway in the Sequoia and Kings National Parks were closed due to the fires

Even though the weather is getting cooler, it is not getting any wetter and that is a concern, he said.

“We’re going to need rain in addition to the lower air temperature,” Cole said. “If you don’t have moisture, all those fuels you have laying out there are still going to burn.”

Even a quarter-inch or half-inch of rain would help. An inch of rain combined with cooler temperatures would “knock the socks off” the fires, he said.

Unfortunately, the forecast is not looking good for October.

“A meteorologist with the National Weather Service who works with us said if you are looking for moisture towards the end of the month, don’t count on it,” said Cole. “He said the biggest problem coming up is that October is a really dry month around here normally. We could be looking at a really long haul here before we have any moisture.”

Temperatures may also rise, Cole said.

The fires, reported on Aug. 19, are believed to have been caused by lightning strikes, the U.S. Forest Service said. The majority of the Castle Fire is in the Sequoia National Forest, with parts of the Inyo National Forest.

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