Sierra National Forest

Courtesy of Albert Yurgal, James Sponsler

When James Sponsler and two close friends set out on a backpacking trip Friday night over Labor Day Weekend, they didn’t know the Creek Fire had started 30 miles away.

 

“Just about lunch time on Saturday was when we noticed the massive thunderhead,” says Sponsler. “Unbeknownst to us, this was the fire itself.”

On this week’s Valley Edition: Three hikers who were evacuated from the High Sierra by helicopter last week tell us what it was like to be stranded due to the Creek Fire. 

 

We also talk with wildfire experts about the importance of forest thinning and prescribed burning to prevent the massive outbreak of fires the West is now experiencing. 

 

Later, we’ll have our weekly COVID-19 update. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

CalFire - Fresno County District Twitter

More than 30,000 people in Fresno County have had to leave their homes due to the Creek Fire. 

Sharon Souza is one of them. She left Tollhouse Tuesday morning, but spent the weekend deciding what items would stay and what would go. She says she tried to be practical rather than sentimental.  

“At some point, when I realized ‘I can’t take everything with me,’ I actually, one night, went around and took pictures of my pictures on the wall,” she says. “I took pictures of family favorite recipes, I did things like that.”

sierrausd.org / Sierra Unified School Distrcit Website

Sierra Unified School District in the Fresno County foothills is suspending online instruction for the week due to the Creek Fire burning in the Sierra National Forest. 

Superintendent Alan Harris estimates up to 75 percent of district staff and students are being evacuated or have already been displaced by the fire. 

“We need to get to safety, and get to security,” says Harris. “Once we do, then we’ll settle back into what’s happening with the learning.”

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The fires burning in Northern California have now grown to over 200,000 acres and have killed more than 40 people. Closer to home the area off Highway 41 near Yosemite is recovering from the Railroad Fire that threatened communities, resorts and even a large grove of giant sequoias.

But perhaps the most iconic feature at risk of being lost was the historic Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday endorsed an effort to cut the size of Giant Sequoia National Monument by over 70 percent. The proposal to shrink the monument came from Supervisor Steve Worthley, who used to work in the timber industry. He says the Forest Service isn’t doing a good job managing the monument, increasing the risk of wildfire.

“Leaving it as a national monument will only make it that much more difficult to engage in active management which is what is necessary,” said Worthley.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The bark beetle has killed so many trees in the Sierra Nevada that officials are worried that people visiting places like the Sierra National Forest are in danger just by being there. Last week Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency when it comes to the dead trees and is asking for federal resources to remove them safely. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from the Bass Lake area on what the Forest Service is doing to protect visitors.

Valley Public Radio

On this week's Valley Edition: Governor Brown has declared a new state of emergency in California. But it’s not involving a wildfire or a mudslide – it’s actually about the massive die-off trees in the Sierra. We’ll find out what local forestry officials doing scrambling to keep visitors safe. Later in the show we’ll talk about a new opinion piece in the New York Times that suggests California’s best days are behind it. Is the California dream turning dark, or is the state about the reinvent itself once again? 

U.S. Forest Service InciWeb

Forest service officials say a juvenile is suspected of starting the Willow Fire near Bass Lake which has now burned more than 2,000 acres and is 30% contained. As FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports the fire may prompt more evacuations.

Residents in the Cascadel Woods community are already under a pre evacuation advisory but fire officials announced today that if the fire spreads they will issue a mandatory evacuation within 12 to 24 hours.

Cody Norris is a spokesman for the Sierra National Forest.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Fires in the Sierra Nevada are a natural phenomenon, but with human sparked blazes - like this summer's Rim Fire - the ecology of the mountain range is in flux. Will the high country scorched this summer ever return to its natural glory or will the region of the forest be littered with shrubbery? In this report Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero takes a walk through multiple groves scorched by fires - caused naturally and by the human hand - and speaks with ecologists about the future of the forest burned by the Rim Fire.

John Smith / Sierra National Forest Official Twitter @Sierra_NF

Update: 9:00 a.m. 8/1/13 - The Aspen Fire has now grown to 16,204 acres and is 40 percent contained.

Update: 9:00 a.m. 7/31/13 - Fire officials say the Aspen Fire has now consumed 14,332 acres and is 35 percent contained.

Update: 5:30 p.m. 7/30/13 - Officials with the Valley Air District have issued a "health cautionary statement" for residents in all valley counties due to smoke from the Aspen Fire.  From a press release issued by the district: