Tuesday, July 10, 2007 • Wheeler Fire burns through Plumas National Forest

The Wheeler Fire as seen from Susanville.

Six lightning strikes concentrated on the Plumas National Forest caused a series of wildland fires at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 5. As of 9:30 a.m. Friday, July 6, the fires are between 2,000 and 3,000 acres in size and are 0 percent contained. They are collectively known as the Antelope Complex, with the largest of them being called the Wheeler Fire, which burned more than 1,000 acres as of nightfall on Thursday, July 5.

The fire is burning 12 miles northeast of Taylorsville and six miles south of Antelope Lake.

So far, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for campgrounds around Antelope Lake, and scattered residences, but as of yet no building evacuations have been ordered. Forest Road 29N43 has been closed between Flournoy and the dam.

Susanville Fire Department Fire Chief Stu Ratner announced the fire at the regular meeting of the Susanville City Council. At the time of the meeting the fire was only 200 acres in size.

SFD battalion chief Ted Friedline said when he saw the thunderclouds rolling in, he was concerned.

“It looked like there was some energy in that cloud,” Friedline said, “and apparently it hit the other side of the mountain pretty hard.”

Smoke could be seen pluming into Lassen County as early as the afternoon of Thursday, July 5. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning that was in affect from 1 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 6.

NWS reported a low-pressure system was moving into parts of Northern California and the increase in moisture would make thunderstorms in the mountain regions unstable. NWS also said the thunderstorms will be elevated high and will initially have little to no precipitation. The storms were reported to be over the highest elevations and were likely to cause heat lightning, along with the possibility of wind gusts.

Susanville Interagency Fire Center reported a concern of more lightning over the weekend as well.

Firefighters flop in the grass to get some rest after a long night. Some try to sleep, while others relax and read in a makeshift recliner.