‘The driest fuel conditions ever’: Point Fire quickly contained, but concern remains over extreme conditions

Wildfire Watch

EL DORADO NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. (KTXL) — Despite extreme fire conditions, U.S. Forest Service firefighters were able to contain a wildfire that started early Monday morning.

While the Point Fire was contained at 20 acres, forestry officials are still concerned about the long-term fire hazard conditions in the high Sierra.

“We are at the driest fuel conditions ever,” said Jeff Marsolais, forest supervisor at El Dorado National Forest.

It was a close call after flames were spotted by a fire lookout tower in the El Dorado National Forest, 16 miles east of Foresthill. With winds gusting at 30 miles an hour, air support was not possible, but forestry crews were put on 24-hour shifts for this wind event.

“We actually had crews on overnight last night as part of this wind event, and we were able to send the out very, very early as soon as the fire call came in,” Marsolais said.

The fire is burning slash piles left from the aftermath of the massive King Fire in 2014, with crews having to deal with spot fires caused by the heavy winds.

To make matters worse, several fire facilities in the El Dorado National Forest are running on generator power because of the PG&E power shutdown.

Usually, by this time of year, there would be at least one wet storm to ease fire conditions and even end the fire season, but this year has been different.

“There was no summertime precipitation, no thunderstorms that we normally get,” Marsolais said. “[Instead] there was a winter last winter that was drier than normal, and of course, it’s been very hot all summer long.”

While temperatures took a dramatic dip this week, the humidity and wind are the bigger concerns.

The nearby Fork Fire has been burning for a month and a half, and although it is mostly contained, the wind threatens to fan still smoldering embers.

“These kinds of conditions with the winds and the fuel conditions are the recipe for large fire growth, so we’ve been monitoring very closely the Fork Fire,” Marsolais said.

Camping and campfires have been banned in California National Forests for months, but an illegal fire prompted a response today near Wright’s Lake.

In the past week, there have been 15 known illegal fires in the El Dorado National Forest that spans Amador and El Dorado Counties — bad news for the growing number of homes and businesses that surround the boundaries of the National Forests.

Forestry officials are not only concerned about the weather in the next few days, they are keeping a close eye on long-range weather forecasts that call for a drier-than-normal winter, so fire conditions could run into the holidays and beyond.

The extreme fire danger warning will continue through the evening and is expected to ease with a “critical” warning for tomorrow.

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