Crews Make Progress on California Wildfires, but Smoke Could Be a Problem

Crews Make Progress on California Wildfires, but Smoke Could Be a Problem

Firefighters work to extinguish the Post fire outside Gorman, Calif., on June 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin

6/18/2024

Updated: 6/18/2024

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Despite perilous terrain, high winds, and hazardous weather conditions, fire crews made progress overnight on several California wildfires, but smoke from the burn still covered the region June 18.
Fire crews fighting the Post fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties reported reaching 24 percent containment as flames scorched more than 24 square miles across the two counties.
One person was injured in the fire and a commercial property, possibly an auto body shop near Gorman, was destroyed, according to fire officials.
An evacuation order remained in place Tuesday for residents and visitors threatened by the Post fire. Those living or visiting west of Interstate 5 between Pyramid Lake and Gorman, including the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, were required by emergency officials to leave the area.
About 1,200 hikers and campers were evacuated from Hungry Valley State Park’s off-road vehicle recreation area, California’s second-largest area of its kind, and from Pyramid Lake. The lake, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, remained closed.
Residents south of Pyramid Lake between Old Ridge Route and the Los Angeles County line, including Paradise Ranch Estates, were under an evacuation warning Tuesday.
The Post Fire started as a brush fire just before 2 p.m. Saturday but quickly grew to 10,500 acres, or 16 square miles, by midnight. By Tuesday morning, the blaze had consumed more than 15,600 acres south of Gorman Road near Hungry Valley State Park, fire officials reported.
The fire expanded again by about 1,000 acres Monday, but fire crews were able to contain 24 percent of the blaze by 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause.
By Tuesday morning, the fire continued to burn southeast toward Pyramid Lake and in steep, hard-to-reach areas, Cal Fire reported. To stop the spread, crews were building and reinforcing fire lines around the perimeter of the fire and using helicopters to extinguish hot spots.
Weather conditions were also making it hard for firefighters, putting at risk power lines, dams, and oil pipelines, the agency said.
The state assigned about 1,700 firefighters to the incident, along with 24 helicopters, 151 fire engines, 13 bulldozers, and 26 water tenders, Cal Fire said in its latest update.
“Numerous firefighting air tankers from throughout the state are flying fire suppression missions as conditions allow,” the agency said.
The Post fire is expected to continue south.
Fire trucks drive in a convoy to extinguish the Post fire outside Gorman, Calif., on June 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Fire trucks drive in a convoy to extinguish the Post fire outside Gorman, Calif., on June 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Smoke Fills Region

Cal Fire also warned of a significant amount of smoke in the region.
Heavy smoke conditions may make driving difficult on Interstate 5, south of Gorman and north of Santa Clarita, impacting the communities of Castaic, Piru, and Santa Clarita.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a wildfire smoke advisory for the Santa Clarita and Castaic areas Saturday, warning at-risk residents, including the elderly and people with diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, of “unhealthy levels” of smoke, but that advisory expired Sunday evening.
“We saw poor air quality in the Santa Clarita Valley close to the Post fire on Sunday,” district spokeswoman Rainbow Yeung told The Epoch Times in an email. “For the last day, most of our monitors have measured fairly typical levels of fine particle pollution, the main pollutant in smoke.”
Smoke from the Post fire has been limited even though the fire has not been fully contained, she added.
However, ozone pollution, or smog, has reached levels that may be unhealthy for the “at-risk” population, wrote Ms. Yeung.
The air quality district shared a map on Facebook Tuesday showing much of Southern California still suffering under smoke pollution from the fire. Residents in Santa Clarita, San Bernardino, Riverside, Palm Springs and Coachella were dealing with air quality that was “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the district reported.
Most of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange counties were experiencing moderate levels of air quality affected by the smoke.
The Southern California region affected by the smoke will likely continue to have elevated smog levels, which becomes unhealthy, Ms. Yeung said.
The National Interagency Fire Center released a seasonal wildfire outlook this year that indicates wildfire activity will be below typical levels in the early summer, but transition to above-normal levels by the end.
Also, dry weather conditions could increase the potential for more wildfires.
High temperatures and low humidity were expected to ease this week, possibly making it easier for crews to battle the fires, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Hall in Oxnard, California.
“In general, conditions are improving over the next several days,” Mr. Hall told The Epoch Times. “We’ll start to see a little bit of the return of less winds and a little bit better moisture.”
If northeast winds get stronger, they may push the fire deeper into the forest and wilderness areas, and cause the embers to ignite new hotspots up to three-fourths of a mile away, according to the update.
Wind gusts in the area may reach 55 miles per hour Wednesday, Cal Fire said.
“The northernmost portion of the fire will generate minimal smoke since the lighter fuels have already burned,” Cal Fire reported in the update.
Jack Reimers, an incident spokesman with the U.S. Forest Service, said firefighters made good progress Monday.
“We had a really good day today,” Mr. Reimers said in a video update. “Firefighters worked all day, and improved the containment lines, mopped up and secured where they could and continued to [fight the fire directly].”
Crews working on the fire north of Pyramid Lake were encountering steep, rugged, and inaccessible terrain, he added.
“There’s a lot of hard work, and probably another week of hard work out there,” Mr. Reimers said.
A red-flag weather warning was still in effect Tuesday morning, as warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds were expected to increase fire risk.
Helicopters joined the fight to contain the Post fire outside Gorman, Calif., on June 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Helicopters joined the fight to contain the Post fire outside Gorman, Calif., on June 17, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Point Fire

Wineries in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley were under threat by the Point fire—a smaller wildfire that continued to burn about 1,200 acres Tuesday, or about 2 square miles.
The fire started Sunday and its origin was still under investigation, Cal Fire reported. Crews had contained about 40 percent of the fire by Tuesday morning.
Cal Fire reported two structures were destroyed and one firefighter was injured in the blaze as of Monday night.
The fire agency attributed progress to favorable weather and strong work by fire crews, according to a statement posted Tuesday on X.
“Crews continue to fortify control lines and will begin heavy mop-up operations inside the perimeter,” Cal Fire wrote.

The Aero Fire

Crews battling the Aero fire, a 5,400-acre blaze, about 8 square miles, in Calaveras County near the Stanislaus National Forest in Northern California, had contained about 20 percent of it by Monday night, thanks to favorable weather, officials reported.
“Firefighters had a small decrease in winds and an increase in relative humidity overnight that assisted crews with construction of a fire line,” Cal Fire wrote in an update Tuesday.
The fire is burning in grass and oak woodlands in an area that has not had a large fire in about 20 years.
The fire started at about 3:30 p.m. Monday. The cause has not been determined, Cal Fire reported.
About 370 fire personnel were assigned to the incident, with 43 engines, and nine bulldozers.
Officials had opened a large-animal shelter at the Angels Camp Fairgrounds after evacuation warnings were issued in the area.
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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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