What we know about the Lava Fire Monday: Evacuations ordered; 30 miles of Highway 97 close
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The Lava Fire burning between Weed and Mt. Shasta on Monday forced evacuations and the closure of 30 miles on Highway 97.
The fire grew overnight to 1,446 acres and was 20% contained, fire officials reported in the morning.
Strong erratic winds and dry fuels pushed the fire to its current size, from 220 acres on Sunday morning, the U.S. Forest Service reported.
On Monday afternoon, officials reported two more fires burning near the Lava Fire — the Tennant Fire about an hour west and the Beswick Fire about a half hour north. Crews were making progress in containing the Beswick Fire.
One of four lightning-ignited fires started during last Thursday's thunderstorms, Lava began 3.5 miles northeast of Weed, 4.5 miles southeast of Lake Shastina.
Here are answers to questions about the Lava Fire on Monday.
Is the fire threatening Weed or Lake Shastina?
There's no immediate threat to these areas as of noon on Monday, although evacuation orders are in place, California Incident Management Team spokesperson Raj Singh said.
Smoke plumes appear very close to Weed, and some flames can be seen from vantage points including Grocery Outlet in South Weed and School Hill.
"As the day heats up, the smoke is going to get higher," Singh said. "The column and the fire will become more and more visible."
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) is helping, he said, but for now the Forest Service is overseeing firefighting efforts.
Where are the evacuations?
As of 3 p.m. Monday, Siskiyou County Sheriff Jeremiah LaRue ordered residents to evacuate the following areas:
- County Road A-12 north and south,
- Harry Cash Road in Siskiyou
- North side of Hoy Road
- North along Highway 97 to County Road A-12
- Lake Shastina
- Juniper Valley off Big Springs Road from Highway 97 to McDonald Lane
- Both sides of Big Springs Road.
- Mount Shasta Vista Subdivision
- 4 Corners to Hart Road
People in surrounding areas should still keep a bug-out bag, medications, water, food and pet supplies ready to go if evacuations are called. Keep pets where you can reach them quickly.
There will be a community meeting to update residents at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Kenneth Ford Theater at College of the Siskiyous, according to a U.S. Forest Service announcement posted on Facebook. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are in place, and masks are required regardless of vaccination status.
What are weather conditions?
Firefighters face low humidity and higher-than-average temperatures this week, according to the National Weather Service in Medford.
There's a Red Flag Warning in effect until 8 p.m. Monday, and an excessive heat warning is in effect until 11 p.m. Thursday.
Highs should be above 100-105 through Saturday in the Yreka and Weed areas, meteorologist Jay Stockton said.
Isolated thunderstorms may roll in Friday afternoon or evening, he said, and will continue during the latter parts of the day on Saturday and Sunday.
Still, humidity will remain low throughout the weekend, Stockton said.
Is the fire causing traffic delays?
As of about 4 p.m. on Monday, officials closed High 97 between the city of Weed and the Juniper Lodge on the highway.
The closure affects about 30 miles of highway between, according to Shasta-Trinity National Forest officials.
Drivers near the fire area should watch for water trucks and emergency vehicles, especially north of Weed.
The traffic situation can change at any time during a fire, CHP spokesman Bill Lynam said.
Check for traffic incidents before you go at cad.chp.ca.gov/Traffic.
What can I do about the smoke?
People with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk of health effects from smoke, according to Siskiyou County Public Health, but anyone can experience health issues with smoke inhalation.
To reduce exposure to smoke and fire-related pollutants, public health recommends the following:
- Close windows and doors
- Avoid, or at least try to reduce, outdoor activities
- Run air conditioner to filter indoor air a bit.
- Wear an N95 respirator to protect against smoke particulates, but be aware they aren't effective against the smell of smoke.
- Consider leaving the area if you are sensitive and smoke is an ongoing problem.
- Get medical help if you experience coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and/or chest tightness.
- Check on people who have health issues. Smoke inhalation can make respiratory disease symptoms worsen and trigger asthma attacks.
For more information about health-related issues go to the public health website at co.siskiyou.ca.us/publichealth.
When do officials expect to put the Lava Fire out?
There's no report as to when firefighters think they will be able to put the fire out, Singh said.
Right now, firefighters are challenged by hot temperatures, low humidity and steep rocky terrain with limited access, the Forest Service said.
Another challenge is getting water to the fire. Water sources close to burn areas are limited, so water is being flown in from Lake Shastina.
Check back at mtshastanews.com for more updates.