As the Rough fire continues to grow, new evacuation plans reach into the Sierra foothills including a call for the Endangered Cat Haven near Dunlap to begin moving its animals.
The nearly 6-week-old fire reached 103,244 acres by 9 a.m. Wednesday, making it the 10th largest in the country. The Sierra blaze has grown nearly 25,000 acres in the last week. It remains 31 percent contained.
The Rough fire incident management team expects the fire to remain active because of hot, dry conditions throughout the central San Joaquin Valley. Much of the team’s focus is centered around protecting structures in Hume Lake and Cedar Grove.
The smoke and triple-digit temperatures prompted the Valley air district to declare an air alert through Friday. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is asking Valley residents to limit driving to help reduce ozone formation that could exceed health standards.
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And people in the foothills are feeling the heat. A community meeting Wednesday night in Dunlap to air concerns drew hundreds of people. In addition to the Cat Haven, evacuation warnings remain in place for Pinehurst, Dunlap, Miramonte and Wilsonia. Evacuation orders remain for Hume Lake, Kings Canyon Lodge, Kennedy Meadows, Summit Meadow, Goins Ranch and Marvin Pass in Fresno County.
Dale Anderson, executive director and founder of Cat Haven, said evacuation started Wednesday with smaller cat species, such as bobcats and jaguarundi. Larger cats include tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and snow leopards. Overall, the facility is home to 34 cat species, about two dozen of the larger varieties, he said.
He said Cal Fire officials warned him that they would likely need to be in the Cat Haven facility to keep the fire from spreading into the area, and Anderson said he didn’t want the cats to be an additional obstacle for firefighters.
“Cal Fire said we still have several days,” he said. They will need more time to move the larger cat species.
Anderson said they are accepting offers of crates and shelter, which are coming from around the state.
“There are relatively few facilities like ours,” he said. “It’s a small community of people who have cats like this. All the people who have had to deal with fire asked what they could do to help.”
Scott Barton, Fresno Chaffee Zoo director, said they are sending crates to the Cat Haven and will try to accommodate some animals, but it could be difficult.
“We have animals coming in for the expansion,” he said, referring to next month’s opening of African Adventure.
Barton said the zoo is making staff available to assist the Cat Haven. He said the zoo also will try to find a shady space to park a Cat Haven trailer containing animals.
The blaze is burning in four separate areas: 4,852 acres in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks; 48,107 acres in the Sequoia National Forest; 50,222 acres in the Sierra National Forest; and 63 acres outside of federal lands.
The Rough fire is the largest active wildfire in California. According to the national incident command website, InciWeb, at the time of this writing it was the 10th largest in the country.