On September 8th, 2020 one of the North Complex fires, the Claremont-Bear made a historic run after a spot fire jumped the Middle Fork of the Feather River from an uncontained fire edge. The fire ran from Cleghorn Bar to Lake Oroville as winds, terrain and dry fuels came into perfect alignment. The spot fire traveled more than 30 miles in 16 hours and spotted across Lake Oroville.
The spot fire was reported immediately and broadcast as an update at the beginning of the 1000hrs Cooperator Meeting being live streamed. 30 minutes later the spot fire was reported to be 1,000 acres.
Immediate notifications were made by Liaison Officers to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office, Butte County Sheriff’s Office and Yuba County Sheriff’s Office. At 1108hrs, evacuation of Lumpkin Ridge was recommended to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.
Air Attack reported the spot fire with an estimated size of 5,000 acres and a running crown fire at 1130hrs. Additional calls were immediately placed to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office with an updated recommendation to evacuate everything 5 miles west of the Butte-Plumas County line. Yuba County Sheriff’s office was called at the same time with a recommendation to evacuate everyone inside a 4-mile radius around Strawberry Valley.
Special thanks are extended to Butte County Sheriff Honea. Prior to entering unified command, and at the request of my team’s Liaison Officer, he sent one of his detectives to embed directly with the team’s Operations Section Chief to plan, coordinate and inform the immediate emergency notification, and evacuation of an estimated 23,000 people. This close coordination and direct communication pipeline enabled immediate notification of the fire movement and additional spot fires to jurisdictional and cooperating officers as they performed the evacuation.
The spot fire moved 20 miles beyond all fire prediction models identified. New spot fires in advance of the primary progression were reported up to 4 miles ahead of the fire front. Large clusters of spot fires were joining so rapidly that huge areas were igniting at once creating a very dangerous fire environment.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office and all who helped execute their jurisdictional evacuation responsibility are to be commended for their effort to evacuate all affected communities and citizens.
-Jay Kurth, Incident Commander
California Interagency Incident Management Team 4