Dixie Fire – Ongoing Updates

UPDATE: 8/29/2021, 9:00pm
Only got IR mapping at 3pm today, so here is where the fire was at that time. White line is last night’s perimeter. Blue is 2019 Walker Fire, Purple is 2020 North Complex.
UPDATE: 8/29/2021, 8:00am
Fire continues to spread toward Walker Mine, north of Greenhorn Ranch and south of Genesee Valley. Minimal spread elsewhere on the fire.
View to north. Mapping from August 29 at 1:30am. White line is 28 hours fire spread.
View to WSW, East Quincy in upper-center.


UPDATE: 8/28/2021, 8:00pm:
The fires south of Genesee Valley made an approximately 5,000-acre run today. The two separate heads joined, advancing about 1.3 miles to the south. Mapping as of about 7pm on August 28.

First view is looking west toward Indian Valley.



Looking south toward Greenhorn Ranch.



Looking northwest. East Quincy on lower right.



Fire between Butte Lake and Highway 44 on north end of fire was cooling off today, with no new spread shown outside last night’s mapping. Mapping from 5:45pm on August 28.



Fire spread was fairly minimal in the 2012 Reading Fire area, with one spot showing up about 500 feet from the previously mapped perimeter.


Dozer Mania
I’m not sure why we are still pushing so many dozer lines if we don’t have the resources to be able to fire and hold them before the fire arrives. Due to problems with spotting and the critically-dry fuels, indirect dozer lines have been unsuccessful many of the places we have used them on this fire since day 1. There are over 1,500 miles of bulldozer line on the Dixie Fire (including a stretch plowed over the top of the Pacific Crest Trail thru a National Wilderness Area), and over 600 miles of these lines are INSIDE of the now-burned area.
Dozers definitely have their place and can be effective when they are working the flanks of the fire or in an area where we have a cohesive plan to fire off a major corridor like A-21. But they have bought us very little running around willy-nilly carving up places in front of head fires or in locations where we’d never pull off a major firing operation. So much of what they are are doing now is just creating future erosion problems and resource damage on our wildest ridgelines. Why keep using a technique that is failing over and over?
Interior dozerlines along edge of Mountain Meadows.
Interior dozer lines near Home Ranch in Mountain Meadows.
Near Wilson Lake Road.


UPDATE: 8/28/2021, 6:00am:
Fire in Genesee Valley spread actively over past 24 hours while fire in Lassen Park and near Highway 44 didn’t move much. Here are heat maps captured at 9pm on August 27. The white lines show 24 hour growth.

This image looks southeast toward Greenhorn Ranch.


Looking SW toward Qunicy.



Looking north. White line is 24 hour spread.



No forward movement toward Highway 44 on north end of fire.



The fire had minimal spread in the 2012 Reading Fire brushfields. With higher winds, especially from south, it could behave much differently. One interesting thing about south winds in this Sierra/Cascade Region is they come out of the Sacramento Valley, usually up from the delta. So they are rarely critically dry. Also, they have to travel over about one million acres of shallow, hot water in rice fields north of the Sutter Buttes. Some oldtimer fire behavior wizards have told me they think this adds moisture to the south winds. I don’t have any data on this.



UPDATE: 8/27/2021, 6:00pm:
Fire has spread over the top of Grizzly Ridge onto the Quincy side of the hill. As of 5:20pm, it had not moved downslope past prepped roads or dozer lines.

View looking east. Chandler Road, just north of Quincy, is about 5.5 miles from the fire. Heat data from 5:20pm on August 27. Bulldozer lines in black.


Looking west toward Quincy. Taylorsville and Indian Valley on left.



Fire is also active on Mount Ingalls, after chewing its way up through the 2019 Walker Fire (dark blue) over past several days. This puts the Walker Mine Superfund site, the light white area in middle of this map, directly between two fires. Not sure what impact a fire could have on the site, but it is a local landmark and curiosity.



UPDATE: 8/27/2021, 7:30am:
The fire didn’t spread much toward Highway 44 yesterday. The best mapping I have right now is from 7:30pm on August 26.



There was quite a bit of growth on the fire on north side of Grizzly Ridge yesterday afternoon. Mapping from 7:30 pm, 8/26.2021. White line is 24 hour growth.





UPDATE: 8/26/2021, 7:30am:
Someone just posted this wild video of what burning conditions looked like when the fire made it’s big run toward Westwood on the evening of August 12. This video was shot about two-three miles north of the railroad crossing on A-21.

Jargon note: Many firefighters would say this is not a ‘burnover,’ because nobody got hurt and no equipment was destroyed.


Here are updated maps of the fire spread on Grizzly Ridge and north of Butte Lake with the latest bulldozer line data on them. Not much else going on in the heat maps. The fire has reached the 2012 Reading Fire area in Lassen Park, and it will be interesting to see how things burn there. If you’re a firefighter with intel or observations on fire behavior, or how various tactics are (or aren’t) working, email me. All sources will be kept confidential.

IR was flown at 8:50pm on August 25. Here is a view of the new fire growth on north side of Grizzly Ridge. The imagery was classified in a different way last night, so it is kind of misleading. Not all of this area is hot, but I can’t sort it out on my end. Just know that much of the area inside red areas is actually already burned and the fire is mainly hot around the perimeter. Black lines are bulldozer firelines. View is to the west (all images have a compass in upper-right).

Looking south over Genesee.

Fire has backed down to dozer lines on several flanks on Mount Jura.

North of Butte Lake, the fire did not reach Highway 44 yesterday. Some firing occurred out ahead of the spread. There is some spotting into clearcuts in the foreground.

More spotting near Highway 44..

There was a spot across the main bulldozer line on the main road between Butte Lake and Bogard.

The fire has reached the 2012 Reading Fire.




UPDATE: 8/25/2021, 8 pm:

The fire burning on the north side of Grizzly Peak made a run toward the top of Grizzly Ridge this afternoon. This isn’t great news for Quincy in light of forecast north or east winds over next few days.

This first view is looking southwest over Genesee toward Quincy. Black lines are dozer lines. Captured at 5pm on August 25. Yellow is scattered heat in previously burned areas. Faint red line on right is already burned by Fly/Dixie Fire.



Looking SE over Genesee toward Spring Garden.



Fire continues to back down Mount Jura. Taylorsville in lower right.



UPDATE: 8/25/2021, 6:30pm:
The northern part of the fire began when a firing operation jumped dozer lines by the Hat Creek Rim and then took off toward Highway 44. That area was active today, but hadn’t crossed Highway 44 as of 6:45pm. Here is an animation showing the fire’s escape on August 24 and its subsequent run. There has been extensive aerial IR data collection on this fire — something I have never seen before and great for us keyboard warriors.



UPDATE: 8/25/2021, 3pm:
Per CHP website a few minutes ago, it sounds like the fire may not be held at Highway 44:


The finger advancing toward Highway 44 looked fairly narrow on a 1:17pm IR flight, shown below. The blowup is very visible on the GOES-17 heat satellite. Several other spots to the left of the narrower finger also appear to be running this afternoon. We talked about how the fire would accelerate as it moved down and out of Lassen Park. Butte Lake is 1,000 feet higher in elevation than Highway 44, and the fuels change dramatically from being cooler and fir-dominated near the lake, to more open terrain with mainly ponderosa pine needles closer to Highway 44.



8/25/2021 Morning Update:
IR maps from about 10:15pm on August 24 show the new fire spread north of Lassen Park. This has potential to be something much larger than a minor problem. The dozer line they were firing off is the black line running through the middle of the image. The Lassen Park boundary runs through the center-right of image, where another finger of fire which was ignited at around the same time as the firing on the dozer line.


Looking west over Poison Lake toward Old Station. The surface fuels in this area are dominated by long-needle pine litter, which is incredibly receptive to embers. Extensive thinning buys some advantages by reducing torching (single trees going up in towering flames), which reduces the numbers of flying embers which can cause spot fires. But thinning allows more wind down into the forest floor, which can increase the rate of spread.

The Dixie Fire has been incredibly difficult to control in this fuel type. Shown on the next map, there is a huge amount of terrain available to spread across here. Unless they can hold this part of Highway 44 with a major firing operation, the Dixie has the potential to foil 200 dozers and a fleet of VLATs until it runs out of fuel or it rains. If this area of the fire grows larger, it could also open up a new front that might get blasted west toward Shingletown when the east and northeast winds show up in earnest. On a somewhat positive note, a friend with veteran operations experience here gives the team a “moderate chance of success” in holding the fire at Highway 44.



Looking east over Old Station.



11:30am UPDATE, 8/25/2021:
Caltopo heat map from 2am is showing the two new fingers north of Prospect Peak growing together. Afternoon winds (5pm) are forecast to be headed more to ENE. Which could mean the fire impacts Highway 44 across a wider area. Green arrows are forecast 5:30pm winds.


Elsewhere on the Dixie, there is still some heat in the Genesee/Taylorsville area. Imagery from 10:15pm, 8/25/2021.



Here is a pair of images showing pre-fire forest canopy of less than 50% (thinned areas) vs. fire burn severity. This is a simple look at what is likely to cause a lot of head-scratching as we figure out how to get better at creating resilient forest conditions in the face of a warming climate and increasingly outmatched fire suppression programs. Many of us thought the heavily-thinned areas would fare better in a wildfire. It is hard to generalize about these things — the burning conditions were severe and much of the fire spread happened in a matter of hours — so looking at fire effects requires us to really try and nail down the specifics of how the fire was burning at any given time. For example, the fire backed slowly through much of the land around Swain Mountain, and this factor likely outweighs the tree density in affecting how the fire burned. There is a lot to learn from this fire.



8/24/2021 – 8:00pm update:
It sounds like the firing operation north of Prospect Peak we updated you on earlier this afternoon took off with some real get-up-and-go this afternoon, running about a mile and a half in two different heads, NE toward the intersection of Highway 44 and Butte Lake Road. We should have updated mapping of this our tomorrow’s morning update. Expect the closure of Highway 44 in near future.

I marked a lot of trees for thinning in this area during the mid-’90s, and when the 2014 Bald Fire started, I thought that 30 years of biomass reduction in the Hat Creek Ranger District and as much prescribed fire as anywhere in the state, we’d be able to keep it fairly small. The land is relatively flat and there are roads everywhere, but the Bald Fire was absolutely uncontrollable for days. This is classic eastside pine firefighting, with bone-dry, fluffy pine needles everywhere, and a dozen spot fires every time a tree torches. The Bald Fire burned 40,000 acres, much of it with surprisingly high severity. There is no reason the Dixie can’t add 50,000 acres, much of it private timberland, before it hits the Bald Fire scar (dark blue on map below). There’s no fire history here between Dixie and Bald. The red shape in left-center is the 1987 Lost Fire. This season, dozers and tankers haven’t been effective in places like this so far. Maybe they’ll be able to fire Highway 44 tonight, but that is a lot of ground to secure, with lodgepole thickets close to the road, and other holding challenges.



8/24/2021 – 5:00pm update:
Quite a bit of new action on the far northern edge of the fire, outside of Lassen Park. A large firing operation has begun on dozer lines running to the northwest on the north side of Prospect Peak. It appears there is some escape of the firing over these lines and up onto the adjacent escarpment to the north.

Here is an overview of the area we are discussing. The junction of Highway 44 and Highway 89 at Old Station is in the lower right, Bogard Ranger Station is on the far left and Poison Lake is just below and to the left of the (44) icon.



Black lines are dozer lines. The finger of fire in the mid-slope areas on north side of Prospect Peak are along the northern boundary of Lassen Park. The spot fires in lower center of this image are concerning. Imagery from 12:11pm, 8/24/2021.



Slopover onto the escarpment on lower left. Mapping at 12:11pm, 8/24/2021.



Farther to the west, here is the 2012 Reading Fire burn. There is dozer line around the north flank of the Reading Fire. The main body of fire to the south has slowly been approaching the Reading Fire for several days.



There is a lot of heat in area around Butte Lake and as you can see, some of it is on the wrong side of the dozer lines. This area has a lot of pine trees. As discussed previously, the fuel type on this part of the fire has changed as fire has dropped in elevation out of the higher-elevation parts of the Park. The center of this image is about 6,000 feet.



The other main action is still around Genesee and Taylorsville. Here is heat from 1:26pm, 8/24/2021.



The spot fire on north side of Grizzly Peak has spread down to the Valley floor, and is active on the east side.



Some fire is moving up the west edge of the 2019 Walker Fire.



8/23/2021 Evening Update:
Fire continues to be most active in Genesee Valley and Lassen Park. Some heat showing elsewhere but no large runs.



Good morning. Genesee Valley is still the center of all the action. Just about everywhere else on the Dixie is really slowing down. Cooler temperatures have helped, especially in the high-country areas of Lassen Park and Caribou Wilderness, where fire spread remains fairly slow.



Bob Beckwith reports his place in Genesee Valley, which has had a lot of prescribed burning done over the years, fared fine in the fire — it is visible in the center-left of the map above as the only spot on the Antelope Lake Road where fire didn’t get down to the road. He is very unhappy that the bulldozers destroyed his fireproof forest trying to “save it.”

“Well, one of the most interesting stories is I got cited for interfering in trying to keep the bulldozers off my land,” said Beckwith. “I had given the USFS my burn units and explained I had fire lines all prepped last March and we’re still in good condition. That they did not need bulldozers. But they refused to listen to me and brought in a couple dozers and wreaked havoc on the land. I’m so sad. I know every tree by name there, I maintain my land in a park like setting and to see it destroyed by our heavy-handed government not willing to listen. They’re addicted to their dozer lines, which don’t work most of the time.”

Here is a map he sent of all the different burn units they have established on his lands. He hosted the Plumas TREX prescribed fire training exchange last fall. It is true that hundreds of miles of bulldozer line have not held during this fire. At the peak of the fire, there were over 200 dozers assigned, and they had pushed over 1,100 miles of fireline, and since we aren’t very good at accurately mapping dozer line, there is probably much, much more than that out there.



Looking east over Taylorsville.



Milford and the Escarpment. There was no new heat mapped here between 3pm and 7:45pm on August 22, 2021.



There has been some active burning in Lassen Park around Summit Lake. North of Butte Lake, some firing operations have taken place over the past several days.



Fire spread near Summit Lake. The fire has not reached 2012 Reading Fire.



No new spread mapped at Mill Creek or over Highway 36 east of Highlands.



Such a huge relief to hear people are back in Westwood. What a hard time it has been for so many! I’ll be monitoring Genesee Valley, but I need to take care of some other work and catch up on sleep. My updates may have less detail for a little while. Email me if you have a question or want info on something you can’t get answered anywhere else.