By Julie Giyer
The Sequoia National Forest is being consumed by a devastating wildfire that was ignited by a lightning spark on Aug. 19 near the mountain community of Forks of the Kern, located in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Castle Fire has already consumed 36,562 acres, is spreading rapidly and is still at 0-percent containment. Many communities were facing evacuation orders as of Friday, Aug. 28. The evacuation orders affect 242 structures, and a temporary evacuation point has been set up by the Red Cross at Porterville College Stadium Gate 2.
Firefighters are continuing their efforts to contain the blaze. Engines from the Tulare County Fire Department and multiple other departments are using every possible strategy they can to keep the fire from spreading further.
A containment line was constructed along roads and trail systems through the use of bulldozers, hand crews and aircraft. Road closures are being enforced for public safety, but winds pose the threat of continued spreading and may keep the smoke trapped in the Kern River Valley.
Poor air quality in the valley has already become a hazard with low visibility. It is recommended that residents continue to stay inside as much as possible to stay protected from potentially unhealthy air quality. Information on the progression of the fire, as well as air quality can be found at https://inciweb. nwcg.gov/incident/7048/.
Fire managers will continue to employ tactics that will prioritize public and firefighter safety, life safety remain-ing their number one priority.
The Sequoia National Forest covers a span of 1,193,315 acres with giant sequoia groves covering 196,000 acres. These magnificent groves of trees have survived all that nature has thrown at them for centuries and are home to a national monument, Native American archaeological sites and protected animals such as the mountain yellow-legged frog, Little Kern golden trout and the Pacific fisher.