'No imminent danger' from Bagley fire, but it grows

Carol Sunnucks
A standing-room only crowd of about 200 area residents gathered Aug. 27 at McCloud elementary school to hear an update on the Bagley fire that burning out of control in Shasta-Trinity National Forest only 10 miles from McCloud.

More than 200 people filled McCloud Elementary School Monday night to hear the latest on the Bagley forest fire that is burning out of control in Shasta-Trinity National Forest only 10 miles south of McCloud.

The 28,700-acre fire started Aug. 18 from a lightning strike, and, to date, is only 24 percent contained, according to the Interagency Incident Management Team that hosted the community update.

There are nearly 1,300 personnel assigned to fight the fire, which the agency reports has cost more than $7.6 million.

Deputy Incident Commander Mike Minton said the crew originally planned to contain the fire to 30,000 acres by Sept. 5, but was forced in the past few days to begin streamlining for a larger perimeter.

He said the weather is preventing crews from employing a direct firefighting strategy, limiting them to an indirect and less effective approach. This means that rather than fighting fire directly adjacent to the flames, firefighters are constructing fire line at a safer distance and will systematically eliminate unburned fuel between the fire line and the burning edge of the fire.

"It is unfortunately very dry and we are confronted with a lot of weather patterns," Minton said. "This is not a safe environment for firefighting."

In addition to the weather challenges, the fire is burning in an area containing heavy concentrations of dry timber, brush fields and steep slopes.

With the fire only four miles from Big Bend, incident officials said their first priority is to secure that community. They said there is no imminent danger to the communities of McCloud, Mount Shasta or Dunsmuir, but that could change as weather patterns and high winds continue to pose a challenge the next few days. Smoke from the fire will continue to impact those communities over the next several days.

"We are expecting tomorrow (Tuesday) to be the most challenging day yet," Minton said.

A fire update issued Tuesday morning reported, "very active fire behavior, frequent spotting and torching of trees."

During the public meeting, the incident team said that if an evacuation becomes necessary, communities and residents will be notified at least 24 hours in advance. They recommended that residents begin to gather important documents, family photos and other valuables to prepare for an evacuation should that become necessary.

The team reported that there are no building structures immediately threatened, but there are some high-value timberlands and electrical power lines at risk, including a 500 kilovolt power line that feeds central California.

For updates, maps and fire safety information, residents can visit inciweb.org or call 800-923-7316.