Cal Fire: Tuesday “a very good day” for Ranch Fire operations

Last night brought continued success for firefighters battling the Ranch Fire – the larger of two fires that comprise the Mendocino Complex – including those portions that are burning in western Colusa County.

Cal Fire Public Information Officer Chris Vestal said that the eastern side of the Ranch Fire has been the active side of the fire, and where the bulk of operations are currently taking place. Resources had been focused on the southern division of the fire, which threatened various communities on the northern shore of Clear Lake in Lake County. After facing some additional challenges on Tuesday night, firefighters were getting that area “buttoned up” and officials were planning to repopulate communities in that area and reopen Highway 20 today, Russ Fowler, Operations Section Chief, said during a briefing this morning.

The focus is now shifted to the eastern division of the fire, which is divided into two branches – Branch 2 and Branch 3. Those branches meet near Stonyford, with the former stretching north into the Mendocino National Forest, and the latter south to Highway 20.

In Branch 2, in the Mendocino National Forest above Stonyford, firefighters continued to place lines throughout Tuesday, working to connect them to lines established further south in Branch 3.

During the operations briefing on Wednesday morning, Fowler said that firefighters had made a critical stand in their direct firefighting efforts on Goat Mountain Road on Tuesday night, and had “turned the Achilles heel-corner there, just west of Stonyford.” He also said that firefighters were holding the line from Leesville-Lodoga Road down through Bear Valley in Branch 3. Fowler said that a firing operation had been conducted on Tuesday night south of Brim Road, on Walker Ridge, back toward Indian Valley Reservoir, to tie the Ranch Fire back to the site of the recent Pawnee Fire.

“We’re a little shy of getting that tied in, because we ran into humidity, but we’ll get that today – get that buttoned up –and we’ll have this side pretty much locked,” Fowler said. Additional contingency lines will be put in south of that location, to make sure that firefighters have a “catcher’s mitt” there, should something not go well today.

North of Stonyford, “(Branch 2) is continuing to put lines in there, and figuring out how we’re going to get it around the Snow Mountain Wilderness back down into the old Mill Fire, where (Branch 3) is starting to bring some lines down,” Fowler said.

On the incident map displayed at the operations meeting, the majority of the border around the Colusa County portion of the fire was outlined in black – indicating that firefighters had solid containment lines in place. One exception was the piece south of Brim Road Fowler referenced. Another was a small section further north in Branch 3 – a piece of line that isn’t “hot,” but still needs to be cut out to be completely tied in, officials said. That will also be among the objectives for firefighters today.

While smoky skies limited air support activities on Tuesday, it also brought cooler temperatures, which aided firefighting efforts, Vestal said. Those conditions were expected to continue into today. Firefighters on the ground today will have the support of seven Type 1 helicopters, six Type 2 helicopters, six Type 3 helicopters, as well as air tankers – if the conditions permit.

Cal Fire is now expecting that the Mendocino Complex fire will be completely contained by Sept. 1. As of this morning, mandatory evacuations from Saturday remain in place from the town limits of Stonyford, west to the Colusa-Lake County line and North to Colusa-Glenn County line, Century Ranch sub-division, the east and west side of East Park Reservoir, Lodoga from Squaw Creek Inn South and all areas west of Bear Valley Road to Hwy 20.

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net