Zogg Fire Illustrates California Fires Are Nothing to Mess Around With

Zogg Fire 10 miles west of Redding Monday evening from Hilltop Drive in Redding. Photo by Steve DuBois.

September 28, 2020:  Another day and I’m writing about another fire.

Stephen Pyne, the noted fire researcher and author, says we are entering the Pyrocene — the Age of Fire — and it sure feels like that.

My big concern today is the Zogg Fire, which started Sunday afternoon on Zogg Mine Road about 10 miles West of Redding.

You can see from the photo below that this fire was a major incident from the start. I think this photo was was taken about 15 minutes into the fire by one of the PG&E Alert Cams.

PG&E fire photo

PG&E has installed hundreds of cameras watching the wildlands in the area they serve. These cameras are a boon to firefighters, and anyone who lives in or near the wildland.

While I’m on the subject, thanks to PG&E for keeping the power going during this Red Flag Alert. Communications via cell, land line and internet are important for the safety and wellbeing of the people you serve.

Everyone in the Redding area is concerned about the Zogg Fire. I’ll try to be brief about it. As of Monday afternoon, the Zogg Fire fire was around 27,000 acres, and the major direction of spread was to the south and west.

Hopefully firefighters can stop the spread to the south before Cottonwood Creek. I give it a 50/50 chance.

These fires have been spotting long distance, and any gust of wind could wreck the plan at this stage. I don’t know if there is official evacuation orders for the Bowman Road country, but I’d sure be making a plan. The head of the fire is in light fuels, good dozer country.

I am also concerned about the heel of the fire in the upper Clear Creek area. That’s heavy fuel, and the fire can easily advance into the wind onto Mule Mountain and male a run south, endangering homes on Placer Road.

In other news, surprise surprise, the USFS lost control of the North Zone of the August Complex. FS Alaska IMT had conducted burnout operations on the north end of the fire in an attempt to hold Hwy 36. It proved to be an extremely ill-advised tactic, when the forecast north wind hit and the fire took off! The communities of Ruth and Forest Glenn are now in peril. Maybe in Alaska it’s a good idea to light fire into predicted Red Flag weather. I don’t know, but it sure as hell isn’t a good idea in these fuel conditions in California.

The Bear Fire escaped control efforts yesterday. The Bear Fire is part of the USFS PNF North Complex and is now threatening Paradise and Magalia. The Bear fire escaped FS control efforts 2 weeks ago.

There’s a lesson here. We simply can’t mess around with fire in California. Our fuels and population are such that the USFS Light Hand on the Land policy puts us in danger. Forest Service does not put fires out quickly; preferring hand crews and light touch to bulldozers. FS brings in teams from all over the US who don’t know the land, the fuels or the weather, and rotates them out after two weeks. In times of increasing fire danger these outdated policies have got to change.

Every Forest Service fire that they dally with ties up fire resources that could be used for emergency work. Air tankers, helicopters and hand crews are scarce resources. We should not tie them up on USFS Land Management exercises.


Monday 7 p.m. Zogg Fire Update

Royal Burnett is retired from the California Department of Forestry and has lived in Redding for 40 years.

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