Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

KNP COMPLEX FIRE GROWS CLOSER TO SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, PROMPTING CLOSERS, EVACUATIONS

The 2021 incident overview for California to date has included 7,377 incidents, with fires that have burned more than 2.24 million acres and destroyed 3,285 structures. The country has remained at Preparedness Level 5 for 63 straight days, with the National Interagency Fire Center reporting 78 large fires and complexes actively burning across the country as of Wednesday. The fires have already burned 3.17 million acres with over 19,000 wildland firefighting personnel across federal, state, Tribal, and local agencies — including the United States [US] Army, National Guard, and their Canadian counterparts — working to contain fires across the country. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Service: Instagram

The KNP Complex Fire, composed of the Paradise and Colony fires, has grown to 8,940 acres as of Wednesday, with a blaze that is approximately one mile from Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, California, home to the Giant Forest and 275-foot General Sherman tree (also referred to as the largest tree on Earth), according to the Los Angeles Times. The National Park Service has closed the park due to the threat, with Fire Information Officer Mark Ruggiero stating in a news conference that there was no “imminent” threat to the forest, “but that is a potential,” according to The Washington Post. InciWeb reported the fire was ignited by lightning on September 9 before growing significantly on Tuesday and merging with the Paradise and Colony fires. The fire is currently zero-percent contained; having more than quintupled in size from Monday to Tuesday afternoon, prompting the Tulare County Sheriff to issue a mandatory evacuation order for part of Three Rivers in California, while the rest of the community is under evacuation warning.

Other active fires include the Dixie Fire in the California counties of Butte, Tehama, Plumas, Lassen, and Shasta. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported the blaze has already burned 960,470 acres and is 86-percent contained, while the Caldor Fire in the counties of El Dorado, Alpine, and Amador has spread across 219,267 acres and is only 71-percent contained. 

Issy Bailey: Unsplash

The KNP Complex, alongside other fires in and around California, grew significantly on Tuesday night and continues to create unsafe air conditions due to heavy smoke and particulate matter (PM) in the air, according to the Sequoia and Kings National Parks Service. Air Quality Now’s Real Time Air Quality Index (AQI) reports that the Sequoia National Park’s Ash Mountain is currently experiencing a PM AQI of 649, which is extremely hazardous for residents. Typically, the AQI does not exceed 500, with AQI 500 being the most dangerous air quality conditions. Sierra News Online reported that all residents, regardless of health, should move to filtered, air-conditioned environments with closed windows. Additionally, individuals with existing respiratory conditions or vulnerable populations, such as young children and the elderly, are encouraged to remain indoors and monitor pollution levels if they absolutely must exit the home. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District manages AQI sensors and provides recommendations regionally based on fire and smoke dangers, and encourages impacted areas to sign up to receive hourly air quality information through the Real-Time Air Advisory Network (RAAN)

Interactive Map of Air Quality: AirNow

President Joe Biden visited California earlier this week to discuss fire mitigation strategies with California Governor Gavin Newsom as the Caldor Fire and KNP complex threatened communities across the state. In response to the growing frequency and intensity of fire events, Governor Newsom announced that CAL FIRE will direct roughly $138 million to local fire prevention projects across the state. Grants will allow local organizations to take action to reduce fire risk under the Governor’s Wildlife and Forest Resilience Action Plan and the State’s Strategic Fire Plan. In accordance with those plans, the California 2020-21 budget advanced $1.5 billion in wildfire resiliency programming that increased on-site fire personnel and built on forest stewardship approaches in the state. As the state builds capacity for reducing and responding to major fires, residents are encouraged to make plans in case of evacuation or destruction in the meantime. 

Protect Yourself and Your Community: US Fire Administration

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges individuals to plan ahead for wildfire events that can strike a community on short notice and spread quickly. FEMA encourages individuals to stay on top of the latest alerts in their area, including monitoring of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) National Weather Services (NWS) “Red Flag Warnings,” which indicate when critical fire weather conditions are occuring or will occur shortly; and taking advantage of real-time alerts available via the FEMA Mobile App and other local and national communication systems. It is also critical that households dedicate time together well in advance of a wildfire to create a wildfire action plan; inclusive of emergency meeting locations and evacuation routes, a communication plan, and an emergency supply kit, according to CAL FIRE. FEMA implores individuals to heed the warnings of local authorities and immediately adhere to evacuation orders in order to stay safe during a wildfire.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.

RELATED STORIES

  • Remember, Ready.gov  provides information on how to prepare for Wildfire and how to keep you and your family safe.
  • FEMA America’s PrepareAthon: How to Prepare for a Wildfire
  • The Los Angeles Times regularly updated tracking of California Wildfires: California Wildfires Map
  • The National Fire Protection Association provides wildfire preparedness tips: link
  • Marin County provides a wildfire evacuation checklist: link
  • FEMA provides an information video about how to be prepared for wildfires: link

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WILDFIRES 2021