The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office captured frightening videos of the Whaleback Fire burning vegetation over the weekend. Photo by Lassen County Sheriff’s Office

Whaleback Fire 100 percent contained, 18,703 acres

Tuesday morning, Aug. 7 update: County Road A1 is open and the Whaleback Fire is 100 percent contained at 18,703 acres, as of Tuesday morning, according to InciWeb.

According to InciWeb, “As of 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6, County Road A1 will be opened. The forest closure remains in effect for the fire area. Please use caution when traveling A1 as fire crews are still present and there is still a risk of fire weakened trees. The Eagle Lake recreation facilities are still closed.”

The mobile generator, supplying power to Spalding, Bucks Bay, Stones Landing and all customers north of Eagle Lake, was implemented yesterday, Aug. 6.

However, Lassen Municipal Utility District urged Eagle Lake area customers to conserve energy until further notice.

“The mobile generator, which is temporarily providing power for over 800 customers, is working at near capacity to meet the demand for electricity,” LMUD wrote in a statement.

To ensure the community has power for basic needs, LMUD is asking customers to observe the following conservation measures:

• Set your air conditioner thermostat to 78 degrees.
• Use a ceiling fan or other fans to cool your home.
• Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees.
• Avoid using appliances such as your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer until after 7pm.
• Keep windows and doors closed to prevent the loss of cool air.
• Avoid agricultural and residential water pumping between the peak hours of noon to 7pm.

“LMUD continues to work on a plan that will provide the affected communities with a permanent and stable power supply. Until the lines are either repaired or replaced, we ask our customers to practice energy conservation,” the statement read.

The mandatory evacuation order for Spalding residents was lifted Sunday afternoon, Aug. 5.

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Monday morning, Aug. 6 update: The Whaleback Fire is now in the mop up stage, at 18,703 acres and is 95 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

Yesterday, Sunday, Aug. 5, the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation order for Spalding residents, who left their homes Friday, July 27 due to the blaze.

Additionally, the Lassen Municipal Utility District announced it was working with officials to restore power to Spalding, Bucks Bay, Stones Landing and all customers north of Eagle Lake.

“We have completed repairs and have now completed successful testing of our generator installation,” the utility announced in a statement Monday. “We will start the generator system this morning and begin restoring power at approximately 9 a.m.”

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Sunday morning, Aug. 5 update: Crews are working hard on the Whaleback Fire, keeping it at 18,726 acres and bringing it to 90 percent containment, according to InciWeb this morning.

Officials are holding another public meeting at 1 p.m. today, Sunday, at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.

“The focus of this meeting will be to provide the Spalding residents information about the conditions they will face once they are allowed to return to their homes,” according to a Lassen National Forest Facebook post.

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Saturday morning, Aug. 4 update: Reaching 80 percent containment, the Whaleback Fire is still at 18,726 acres, according to InciWeb.

The website continued, “The Whaleback Fire will continue to be under a Red Flag Warning testing containment lines. Firefighters will continue to mop up and extinguish hot spots where it is safe to do so. Crews will continue to mitigate hazard trees to help ensure the safety of firefighters and the public.”

Air quality remains hazardous in Spalding the northwest side of Eagle Lake and Susanville residents can expect unhealthy conditions today, according to InciWeb. Smoke is coming from fires to the West, including the Mendocino Complex and the Carr Fire.

According to the Lassen National Forest Facebook page, a meeting is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.

“The focus of this meeting will be to provide the Spalding residents information about the conditions they will face once they are allowed to return to their homes,” the post read.

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Friday evening, Aug. 3 update: The Whaleback Fire remains at 18,726 acres and is 75 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

According to InciWeb, “Mandatory evacuations in place for the community of Spalding, Gallatin Marina, Ronald McDonald House, and the Merrill, Christie, Eagle and Aspen campgrounds. The evacuation advisory for Buck’s Bay and Stones Landing has been lifted. County Road A1 is closed to the north at Lakeside Drive near Buck’s Bay and to the south at Alta Drive in Lake Forest. County Rd 105 is closed at HWY 44, and County Rd 231 remains closed at this time. Interior islands continued to burn but stayed within the containment lines.”

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Posted by Lassen National Forest on Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday morning, Aug. 3 update: A week into the Whaleback Fire, crews are getting a strong hold on the blaze, keeping it at 18,726 acres and bringing it to 70 percent containment, according to InciWeb.

“Containment lines will be tested over the next few days as the Red Flag Warning will likely remain in effect through the weekend,” read the website. “Resources will be released as containment lines strengthen and control objectives are met.”

897 personnel were assigned to the fire near Eagle Lake.

Additionally, according to Lassen National Forest, “Today at 8 a.m. the evacuation warning for Buck’s Bay and Stones Landing, that was implemented on July 31, will be rescinded. The evacuation order for the Spalding community remains in effect.”

They continued, saying Spalding is not ready for repopulation yet.

“Assessment regarding the repopulation of the Spalding Community is being reevaluated on a daily basis. Once the repopulation criteria are met, the Incident Commanders, Lassen County Sheriff, and the Agency Administrators will make the decision on the timing of the repopulation,” Lassen National Forest wrote on its Facebook page.

“Expect continued hazardous air quality conditions today in Spalding and areas along the northwest side of Eagle Lake,” InciWeb read. “Susanville can expect unhealthy conditions to start the day, with improvement in the afternoon similar to yesterday. High level haze moving in from other fires to the West will be present throughout the outlook area.”

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Thursday evening, Aug  2 update: The Whaleback fires remains at 18,726 acres and is 60 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

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Thursday morning, Aug. 2 update: With minimal fire activity during the night and some increase in humidity, the Whaleback Fire is at 18,726 acres this morning and is 55 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

The primary contingency line has been completed around the fire, but with coming winds, officials are expecting those lines to be tested. Crews are working on completing secondary contingency lines.

“We are far from it being done,” said Jim Ferguson, Incident Commander for Cal Fire, during a Wednesday evening, Aug. 1 community meeting. “For the next five days, we’re in a red flag warning. The winds are going to get stronger each day, it’s still going to be warm, the relative humidity is really low, the fuel conditions are probably about two months drier than they usually are right now. So, the fire activity is very explosive.”

Projected fire activity for the next 12 hours includes  potential fire growth in the northwest and northeast area, influenced by gusty southwest winds and dry forest fuels. Minimal fire is expected on the southern and eastern flanks.

The estimated containment date is still projected for Wednesday, Aug. 8.

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Wednesday evening, Aug. 1 update: The Whaleback fire is now at 18,680 acres and in 50 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

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Wednesday morning, Aug. 1 update: The Whaleback Fire is now 40 percent contained and is at 18,342 acres this morning, according to InciWeb.

The projected fire activity for the next 12 hours includes seeing growth in the northwest and northeast areas of the fire due to gusty winds and dry fuels. Minimal fire is expected on the southern and eastern flanks.

“A spot fire occurred yesterday and headed northeast of the Spalding residences to Eagle Lake. No structures were lost as the crews worked hard to contain the fire. Airtankers, helicopters and ground crews were aggressively used in the efforts to suppress the fire,” Lassen National Forest wrote on its Facebook on Wednesday.

The mandatory evacuations remain in place for Spalding, Gallatin Marina, Ronald McDonald House and Merrill, Christie, Eagle and Aspen campgrounds. The Bucks Bay and Stones Landing areas are still under an evacuation advisory since yesterday afternoon.

“We appreciate the support and cooperation of the residents who have been evacuated. Unfortunately, with the forecast of high winds today and tomorrow and current fire activity, the team managing the fire has determined that it is unsafe to permit people back into the Spalding area. We continue to work with the fire management team, and will allow people to return to their homes as soon as it is safe to do so. Again, we appreciate your support and cooperation,” The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office wrote on their Facebook.

A public meeting is set for 6 p.m. tonight, Aug. 1 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds.

Air quality, according to the Lassen County Public Health Department, remains hazardous in the Eagle Lake and Willow

Creek Valley area this morning and is unhealthy for sensitive groups throughout the rest of the county.

Operational update for August 1, 2018 from Operations Section Chief Curt Lindstrand.

Posted by Lassen National Forest on Wednesday, August 1, 2018

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8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 update: The Whaleback Fire is now 16,850 acres and remains 32 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

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3:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 update: A new evacuation warning has been issued due to the Whaleback Fire.

“Due to increased fire activity and spotting on the #WhalebackFire , an evacuation warning is being issued at this time for those living in the Buck’s Bay to Stone’s landing area,” Lassen National Forest wrote on its Facebook.

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1 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 update: With clearing skies, air tankers will have more opportunities to drop retardant ahead of the fire, the Lassen National Forest reported today.

“Today, tankers will be flying from Redding, Chico or Chester airports, and working over the northwest portion of the Whaleback Fire,” Lassen National Forest wrote on its Facebook. “There will also be more helicopters working over the fire as well, to support the crews on the ground.”

However, with increased winds anticipated through the week, there is also potential for increased fire activity.

The department also updated the public on the next plan of attack.

“A contingency line is being constructed along the 105 Road to the north of the fire. This line could be used to protect the communities of Buck’s Bay and Stones Landing,” Lassen National Forest reported.

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11 a.m Tuesday, July 31 update: Interested parties will get another chance to discuss the Whaleback Fire with officials during a second community meeting. The NorCal Interagency Team 1 and Cal Fire — Lassen Modoc Unit are providing a fire information update 6 p.m. tomorrow, Aug. 1 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County fairgrounds.

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Tuesday morning, July 31 update: The Whaleback Fire continues to grow, reaching about 16,100 acres this morning, according to InciWeb, and is 32 percent contained.

Planned actions for the fire include continuing to construct indirect and direct fire lines, preparing for burnout if necessary, scouting opportunities for contingency lines and moping up and improving existing containment lines. About 614 personnel are fighting the fire.

The estimated containment date is still projected for Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Additionally, thanks to the Northern California fires, smoke continues to hang in the air. According to the Lassen County Public Health Department Tuesday morning, Eagle Lake and Willow Creek Valley areas continue to have a hazardous air quality alert, and all other areas in the county have an unhealthy air quality alert.

Residents should take precautions, especially those with sensitives, and limit outdoor activities, stay inside with windows and doors closed and should not run swamp coolers or fans that bring outside air in.

Some good news, however, Lassen Municipal Utility District was able to restore power to Eagle’s Nest, the youth camp, the Marina, Merrill and Christie campgrounds and Ronald McDonald House, the utility announced Monday afternoon.

While some other customers may also be energized, LMUD announced Spalding, Stones, Bucks Bay and Grasshopper customers were still without power.

Operational briefing for the Whaleback Fire for 7/31/18.

Posted by Lassen National Forest on Tuesday, July 31, 2018

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Monday evening, July 30 update: According to Cal Fire, the Whaleback Fire has grown to about 14,798 acres today and is still 20 percent contained.

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Monday morning, July 30 update: The Whaleback Fire, which is threatening Spalding homes and has forced the evacuation of about 1,000 people, has grown to about 14,098 acres and is 20 percent contained, according to InciWeb.

Some video of the Whaleback Fire from last night. Our deputies are working around the clock to provide security and support for fire.

Posted by Lassen County Deputy Sheriff's Association on Saturday, July 28, 2018

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Sunday night, July 29 update: According to Cal Fire, the Whaleback Fire is at about 9,300 acres and is 6 percent contained.

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Sunday evening, July 29 update:

Hoping to answer some questions, fire and law enforcement officials held a public meeting Sunday afternoon, July 29, regarding the Whaleback Fire, which promoted the evacuation of about 1,000 people.

The last update for the Whaleback Fire, according to InciWeb, estimates the fire is at about 8,971 acres  and is at 6 percent containment,.

“So far, with the limited resources we do have, things are looking pretty good, considering,” US Forest Service Deputy IC for NorCal Team 1 Jaime Gamboa told the crowd during the briefing, noting there was a struggle with resources with all the other fires going on.

“Slowly coming in, but we’re making some good work at finally getting some resources in to help us out,” he added.

With the poor air quality, he added, air help has been limited today.

He added there were no injuries sustained so far due to the Whaleback Fire.

Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon also addressed the crowd.

“The initial evacuation, as everyone knows, was the Spalding tract the evening the fire started … as time passed, it became clear we were going to have to do something,” Growdon said.

He said the sheriff’s office has maintained 24-hour patrol in the area, with help from Susanville Police Department and California Highway Patrol during the evacuation.

Growdon also stressed people should honor road closure on County Road A1.

“The fire behavior is unpredictable,” he said, adding there is fire equipment and personnel also along the road and he thanked everyone who has been helping.

Lassen County Office of Emergency Services Chief Eric Ewing added that while the back burning conducted along Spalding has been successful at keeping the fire at bay from the community, there is still potential for the fire to go the private properties.

He said the repopulation plan was constantly being assessed on whether residents could return to their homes. Several factors play into the repopulation plan, such as air quality. He said there should be about a day’s notice before repopulation would be allowed.

Moreover, Maria Damos, the director of Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake, said as of yesterday afternoon, all camp participants are off-site and the camp is not in the line of the fire. She added they have canceled their Lassen County Kids Week, starting this week.

Acting Forest Supervisor Nate Rezeau for Lassen National Forest, thanked the community sharing he knew how hard it was on everyone and said the department would continue to put out information about the fire.

He said with the Type 2 team in town, that was adding some traffic to the county.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can, but the key thing here is safety,” said Rezeau. “It really comes down to the right plan, at the right place at the right time and the right resources. We are constantly analyzing risks.

He also said this is already a deadly fire season with fatalities from other California fires, like the Ferguson and Carr fires. “We don’t want any of that to happen on this fire.”

The meeting was then opened up to questions from the floor.

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10:50 a.m. Sunday, July 29 update: According to the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, Spalding residents may visit their homes this afternoon

“Spalding residents who were evacuated due to the Whaleback Fire, will be allowed to return to their homes briefly this afternoon (Sunday July 29) between 1 and 3 p.m. to pick up necessary items and to prepare their homes for multi-day power outage,” the department wrote on its Facebook page. “Residents must have ID and sign in at a checkpoint before entering the area. They must leave the area by 3pm.”

Access to Spalding will be north on Highway 139 to Eagle Lake Road.

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Sunday morning, July 29 update: The Whaleback Fire is estimated at about 8,971 acres this morning and is at 6 percent containment, according to InciWeb.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for Spalding, the Gallatin Marina, Ronald McDonald House and the Merrill, Christie, Eagle and Aspen campgrounds, the Lassen National Forest website read.

Fire officials have announced a public meeting regarding the Whaleback Fire at 4 p.m. today, Sunday, July 29 at Jensen Hall at the Lassen County Fairgrounds to provide fire updates and answer questions.

Planned actions for battling the Whaleback Fire include continuing to identify containment lines, constructing indirect and direct fire lines and providing structure protection for Spalding and the developed recreation areas.

The estimated containment date is projected for Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Within the next 12 hours, according to InciWeb, crews are expecting the south flank of the fire to spread up to two miles south-east, thanks to dry weather, the topography and dry forest fuels. The fire is also expected to spread south-west about a mile up Antelope Mountain and also towards Eagle Lake.

Hot, dry conditions are forecasted to continue into the week with the potential for critical fire weather.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Lassen County Public Health Department continued to issue Air Quality Alerts Sunday, July 29.

The Susanville area is now listed as very unhealthy, noting all outdoor events and activities should be canceled and Eagle Lake and Willow Creek Valley air is listed as Hazardous, alerting all individuals, especially those sensitive, to avoid all outdoor exposure as “everyone may experience more serious health effects.”

All other areas in the county were issued an alert for unhealthy air, informing residents to avoid outdoor exposure.

Lassen Municipal Utility District alerted customers yesterday of power outages due to the Whaleback Fire.

“Customers in the Eagles Nest, Stones-Bengard, Bucks Bay and Spaulding areas are without power. LMUD crews are not able to safely access our facilities at this time. We will attempt to send crews in as soon as it is deemed safe. There is no estimated time of restoration,” wrote the utility on its Facebook. 

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Saturday evening, July 28 update: According to InciWeb, the Whaleback Fire has grown to about 8,000 acres today and is 5 percent contained.

The planned action for tackling the blaze is a “full suspension strategy.” Crews are protecting the community of Spalding and the campgrounds.

According to InciWeb, a federal incident management team is taking over the fire at 6 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday, July 29. About 394 personnel are working the fire.

inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6048/

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Saturday morning, July 28 update: The Whaleback Fire, which has forced the evacuations of Spalding, Christie Campground and Merrill Campground grew to about 3,500 to 4,000 acres overnight burning brush and timber and is 5 percent contained, according to Cal Fire Public Information Officer Leah Sandberg.

So far, she reports, no structures have been damaged and the cause is under investigation.

“Last night crews were successful in conducting firing operations to keep the head of the fire from entering the community of Spalding,” wrote Sandberg in a statement. “Today crews will work to build fireline around the fire to stop its forward progress.”

The evacuation shelter at the Assembly of God Church, located at 473-465 Richmond Road in Susanville.

The Lassen County Health and Social Services Department asked anyone going to the shelter to bring their medicine and medical equipment, such as walkers and breathing machines, clothing for three days and important papers. They added in the statement medical care is not provided and caretakers could stay with them at the shelter.

The fire is a Lassen National Forest incident and is a developing story.

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As of about 8 p.m. Friday, July 27, a wildfire burning near Eagle Lake has consumed at least 850 acres and forced mandatory evacuations.

County Road A1 is closed at Gallatin Road and Spalding and about 7:10 p.m. the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for Spalding, a small community on banks of Eagle Lake. The Christie and Merrill Campgrounds were also evacuated.

A shelter has been set up at the Assembly of God Church in Susanville.

Ten engines, five helicopters, four air tankers, four hand crews, four water tenders and four dozers are working the fire.

The fire broke out about 4 p.m. Friday and the cause remains unknown.

We’ll provide more information when it is available.