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Update: Rough Fire Grows To 51,794 Acres, Focus Shifts To Wishon Area

August 25

The lightning ignited Rough Fire is still only 17 percent contained, even though the burn area has grown to 51,794 acres. There are 1,984 firefighters using 138 engines and 10 helicopters to fight the blaze.  

In an interview Tuesday morning Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore spoke with Rough Fire Spokesman Mike Pruitt about the blaze. Reporter Ezra David Romero also shares about his experience at the fire and shares the story of 25 backpackers who had to hike out of the backcountry. Listen to the interview and story above. 

The Hume Lake area was considered the most at risk because of the potential risk to structures, but recent progress around the area is allowing for crews to begin removing hoses and equipment. Fire personnel burned out the highways into the camp and established dozer lines around the community of Hume Lake to prevent the fire from harming the area.

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Credit Courtesy of US Forest Service / InciWeb
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InciWeb
Rough Fire Information Map for August 25, 2015

In the Wishon area crews are working to protect structures and hazard reduction efforts are in progress. Dry vegetation and flammable materials near buildings are being removed. The Pacific Gas and Electric power grid facilities at Balch Camp and Black Rock are a high priority. Forest roads and structures are also being prepped around the Buck Rock area and dozer lines are being constructed along McKenzie Ridge starting at Highway 180 and Cherry Gap. 

Crews are putting out smoldering material around the perimeter of the fire to prevent the fire from spreading.

A community meeting on the fire will be held Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at
Dunlap School, 39667 Dunlap Rd. Dunlap, CA 93621. The current fire situation and the
operational plan for the Rough Fire will be discussed. An open forum for
questions from the public will follow.
 
 
Closures & Advisories:

  • Sierra National Forest issued a closure order for the Rough Fire area.
  • The Hume Lake Ranger District, Jenny Lakes Wilderness and Monarch Wilderness, including Forest Road 12S01, 12S01E, and 12S19 in the Sequoia Highlands area of the Sequoia National Forest remain closed.
  • McKinley Grove Rd. (11S40) is closed at Wishon Dam, including the 11S07.
  • 10S24 Rd. is closed from the intersection of 11S9 to where it meets 11S40 at Buck Meadow.
  • 11S12 Rd. (Salt Flat Rd.) is closed at McKinley Grove Rd.
  • Trimmer Springs Road at Kirch Flat.
  • Parts of the Grant Grove and Wilsonia areas of Kings Canyon National Park are now open. The General Grant Tree, Panoramic Point, John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove Cabins, Visitor Center, park trails, restaurant, market and gift shop are now open to residents and visitors.

 4 p.m., August 24

Even with a decrease in fire activity over the weekend, the Rough Fire east of Fresno has grown to just under  50,000 acres. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that the blaze is now 17 percent contained.

 

8-24-15_daily_rough_fire_romero_wav.mp3
Listen to the story here.

The lightning ignited Rough Fire has grown so large that over 2,100 fire personnel have come to the Sierra Nevada to help put out the blaze. The fire has caused evacuations, forced out backpackers from the high country and destroyed the historic Kings Canyon Lodge.

Rough Fire Spokesman Mike Pruitt says the threat to the Hume Lake area has decreased. He says some of the people evacuated from areas in the path of the fire may be able to return soon.

PRUITT: “We’re starting to give some access back in, which should be a sign that things are improving immensely. There are still some smoke issues.”

The blaze is still growing towards two groves of Giant Sequoias and crews are working to keep the fire from burning to the north fork of the Kings River. Pruitt says weather will play a huge role in the fire’s intensity.

PRUITT: “These increased temps with lower humidity is something that we’re just going to have work with. It’s not ideal. Until this area gets more moisture this is going to continue to be a problem.”

As a result of a successful fire fight the Grant Grove and Wilsonia areas of Kings Canyon National Parks have begun to reopen. But the Hume Lake Ranger District, Jenny Lakes Wilderness and Monarch Wilderness remain closed. 

10 a.m., August 24

Even though fire activity decreased over the weekend, the lightning ignited Rough Fire is still threatening the mountain community of Hume Lake. The 49,440 acres fire is 17% contained as of Monday August 24 at 9 a.m.  Over 2,100 fire personnel are fighting the blaze with 148 engines and 10 helicopters.

As a result of the fire fight the Grant Grove and Wilsonia areas of Kings Canyon National parks will reopen in stages over the next two days.  At noon, the General Grant Tree, Panoramic Point, park trails, John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove Cabins, restaurant, market and gift shop will be open. Tomorrow the Kings Canyon Visitor Center will reopen at 8 a.m. The Hume Lake Ranger District, Jenny Lakes Wilderness and Monarch Wilderness, including Forest Road 12S01, 12S01E, and 12S19 in the Sequoia Highlands area of the Sequoia National Forest remain closed.

Crews are working to keep the fire from burning to the north fork of the Kings River both on the ground and air. The fire is still continuing to spread towards the Windy Gulch area where the Lockwood and Evans Groves of giant sequoias are. 

4 p.m., August 21, 2015 

The Rough Fire burning in the Sierra Nevada east of Fresno is still on the move.  The fire has consumed almost 40,000 acres and is just three percent contained.  FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the blaze is threatening more than just Hume Lake.

8-21-15_pm_rough_fire_daily_romero.mp3
Listen to the story here.

Over 1,600 fire personnel from as far as Australia are working to protect communities like Hume Lake Christian Camps from the encroaching flames of the Rough Fire. Crews are wrapping buildings with protective materials and burning fire lines around highways and the camps. Michael Johnson is the Rough Fire spokesman.

JOHNSON: “It’s a reflective barrier put on structures to kind of reflect that heat. There are also other techniques of using gel and foam to put on structures to prevent something from igniting quickly.”

Thousands have been evacuated. The fire has also forced evacuations of Pacific Gas and Electric personnel at Balch Camp and is threatening an area of ancient forest.  

JOHNSON: The fire is going to continue to spread southeast up into the Redwood Creek area which is near the Windy Gulch grove of the giant sequoias. We are going to delay its movement into some of the groves.”

The lightning sparked fire ignited in late July, but extreme weather conditions and dry forest created a perfect storm for the fire to grow. Johnson says at this point the goal is to protect infrastructure and places with a high value of risk. 

For the most up to date information about the Rough Fire visit the incident information page on InciWeb

August 21, 2015

The Rough Fire continues to grow on its southern and western flanks, threatening the Hume Lake Christian Camp and PG&E facilities near the community of Balch Camp on the Kings River. As of Friday morning the fire has consumed 39,400 acres and is just 3 percent contained. Over 1,600 firefighters are battling the blaze.

On Thursday fire crews at Hume Lake conducted firing operations to reduce fuel and create firebreaks around the Hume basin. Others removed brush and wrapped buildings with protective material to protect them from the blaze. Fire officials also say the blaze is progressing up Redwood Creek towards the Windy Gulch grove of Giant Sequoias. Also on Thursday crews divided management of the fire into two commands, one for the Hume Lake area and another on the fire's western flank near Balch Camp. 

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Credit US Forest Service - Facebook
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Firefighters are wrapping buildings with protective material in an effort to save them from the oncoming fire.

At 3:00 PM Friday, around 30 PG&E employees and their families who live at Balch Camp will be ordered to leave as part of a mandatory evacuation. The electric utility operates hydroelectric facilities in the area. Company spokesperson Denny Boyles says they don't expect the fire to cause any impacts to electric reliability. The company has already de-energized a transmission line in the Hume Lake area as a precaution to protect firefighters. 

Other closures are also in effect due to the fire. Officials with Kings Canyon National Park have closed all overnight accommodations in the Grant Grove area. The General Grant tree and other facilities in the Grant Grove area remain open, though officials warn of moderate to heavy smoke in the area. The U.S. Forest Service has also formally closed the Hume Lake, Monarch and Jennie Lakes Wilderness areas to the public.

For the most up to date information about the Rough Fire visit the incident information page on InciWeb

August 20, 2015

The Rough Fire has burned over 32,000 acres of the Sierra Nevada and forced thousands to evacuate from mountain communities east of Fresno. FM89’s Ezra David Romero has the latest on the blaze that’s still only three percent contained.

use_me_8-20-15_rough_fire_daily_pm_1_romero.mp3
Listen to the story here.

The lightning sparked Rough Fire ignited on July 31st , but in the past days has gained so much ground that it’s only around two miles from the popular Hume Lake Christian Camps.

Bill Carroll is with the group.

CARROLL: “Today the fire is much like yesterday, still coming towards Hume Lake. The forestry is working hard to cut lines wherever they can to protect Hume as much as possible.”

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Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio
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Valley Public Radio
Michael Johnson with the U.S. Forest Service relays what's happening with the Rough Fire to the public.

As the blaze is slowly encroaching on the destination from the south, fire crews are clearing brush that could be a danger to the camps. There are over 1,500 fire personal fighting the blaze in 28 crews with 40 engines and five helicopters.

Michael Johnson is the Rough Fire spokesman.

JOHNSON: “A lot of the fire growth has been due to some of the weather conditions we’ve had. We had almost record level temperatures that coupled with winds with fuels that are already stressed  it makes for the perfect storm for fire growth.”

Crews from across the country and globe are currenlty burning brush along the highways into the community to prevent the spread of the blaze if it reaches Hume Lake. 

--

August 19, 2015

A lightning sparked blaze near Hume Lake in the Sierra Nevada has forced out thousands and burned over 30,000 acres. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that the Rough fire is only three percent contained.

This story will be updated as information is released. 

8-20-15_am_rough_fire_daily_romero.mp3
Listen to the story here.

Over 1,100 fire personnel are battling the Rough Fire in order to keep the mountain community of Hume Lake from ruin. As of midday Wednesday the fire was burning just three miles from Hume Lake Christian Camps.  There are 23 crews fighting the blaze with 27 engines and five helicopters. 

“I don’t think we initially felt like this was going to be a great threat to us," say Bill Carroll with Hume Lake Christian Camps. "Then again fire is part of nature. We just kind of watched it and then once it started to grow we appreciated the forestry just jumping right in there.”

"Anywhere you look you're going to see a fire truck here at Hume Lake. We're just really appreciative of all the resources they're bringing here to protect our camp."

Over 2,500 people were evacuated after the fire jumped the South Fork of the Kings River and onto Highway 180. According the camp's Facebook page as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday the remaining Hume Lake support staff were asked to evacuate. Only the camp's fire team, core utilities staff and over 400 firefighters remain to defend structures. 

"We don't want anybody to get hurt so the best thing is to get everybody out of there and let the firefighters do their thing," says Tony Botti with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. The initial evacuation was ordered late Tuesday afternoon.

On the camp’s Facebook page the organization is asking the Christian community to mobilize and pray.

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Credit Courtesy of Hume Lake Christian Camps
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Fire crews preparing to fight the Rough Fire near Hume Lake Christian Camps.

“Anywhere you look you’re going to see a fire truck here at Hume Lake," Carroll says. "We’re just really appreciative of all the resources they’re bringing here to protect our camp.”

The Hume Lake area is closed, the highway beyond Grant Tree Road is closed, Blackrock Campground is closed and the Cedar Grove area is closed to visitors. 

Smoke from the fire is a problem in the forest, but visitors are encouraged to explore parts of the forest that aren't closed. 

"It's been smokier in the mornings and then about 1 p.m. in the afternoon as the inversion layer starts to lift the smoke kind of lifts as well," says Kevin Slusarski an information officer assigned to the Rough Fire. "But then as things cool down and the fire starts to kind of calm down the fire starts to calm down the smoke starts to come. It's smokier at night and in the mornings."

For the most up to date information about the Rough Fire visit the incident information page on InciWeb

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of Valley Public Radio. During his tenure, he's helped lead the station through major programming changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the station's financial health. From 2010-2018 he served as the station's Director of Program Content. In that role, he also served as the host of Valley Edition, and helped launch and grow the station's award-winning local news department. He is a Fresno native and a graduate of California State University, Fresno.
Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.
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