Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service are battling two major wildfires growing in the Fresno and Tulare counties portions of the Sierra National Forest and the Golden Trout Wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest.
As of Saturday, the Rough fire poses the biggest threat to people, structures and the dozens of giant sequoia groves federally protected as the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The blaze is burning southwest of the Spanish Mountain Wilderness in the Sierra National Forest. The forest service reported it did not pose a threat to any structures as of Saturday afternoon.
However, the blaze will be a major threat to the giant sequoias — the largest trees on Earth — as well as Hume Lake Christian Camp and the surrounding areas if it crosses the Kings River to the south. This spread would also close public access to Kings Canyon National Park.
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Forest service spokeswoman Linda Hecker said about 300 firefighters are focusing their efforts on keeping the wildfire north of the river. The fire was not heading that way as of 1 p.m. Saturday. The wind was blowing then from west to east, meaning much of the smoke was blowing away from Fresno.
Hecker said the forest service is using helicopters to drop water from Hume Lake onto the fire’s southern flank in order to keep it from advancing to the Kings River.
Both of these conditions may change during the afternoon, Hecker said, and evacuation plans are being formed in case the Rough fire turns back toward the river.
The Rough fire grew more than 200 acres from Friday evening to Saturday morning.
U.S. Forest Service reported that the Rough fire grew from 976 acres at 1:15 p.m. Friday to 1,365 acres by 6 p.m. Saturday. It began with a lightning strike on July 31.
Sierra National Forest spokeswoman Iveth Hernandez said Friday that the fire was difficult to fight because it was only accessible by aerial crews.
The Cabin fire is the larger of the two wildfires, scorching 5,364 acres throughout the Golden Trout Wilderness. It has burned U.S. Forest Service land in Tulare and Inyo counties.
The forest service reported that it is burning a heavily wooded area that’s in a no-machinery and no-flame retardant zone, meaning ground crews must make a six-hour hike to the wildfire’s location to try and contain it.
Nearly 500 firefighters were battling the Cabin fire as of 6:42 a.m. Saturday. It is 83% contained.
The Cabin fire started with a lightning strike on July 29, and crews have been monitoring its steady growth. It is unclear whether any structures are threatened, but the forest service closed a portion of the Golden Trout Wilderness and evacuated campgrounds in the area. Anyone interested in visiting the wilderness can call (559) 462-0088 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for closure and fire information.
The three Sierra wildfires have burned more than 12,000 acres.
Meanwhile, more than 600 firefighters are still battling the Willow fire, which has burned 5,702 acres in the North Fork area. It is 95% contained.
The National Weather Service in Hanford said the forecast shouldn’t impact firefighting efforts. Mild temperatures with light humidity and wind are expected through eastern Fresno and Tulare counties.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District forecast unhealthy air conditions for sensitive groups on Saturday for Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties and the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Children, the elderly and people with asthma or heart disease in these areas are advised to be careful during outdoor activities.