Pier Fire near Springville grows to 5,289 acres, evacuations in place

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Authorities say the Pier Fire grew rapidly overnight to 5,289 acres in the Tule Canyon above Springville.

No structures have been damaged. Authorities say the nearest structure is a mile or more away from the fire as of Wednesday morning.

Half a dozen communities are still under a wildfire threat. The Pier Fire in the Sequoia National Forest grew in size during the day and is now at 5,289 acres with no containment.

A treacherous landmark notorious for drownings became the site of another extreme emergency. This time it was fire overpowering the Tule River below and air drops from above consuming ridge after ridge near the stairs.

"You see that light, I think that's a spot fire," said Craig Morgan, Springville.

Morgan watched as the embers danced in the lens of his binoculars. His friends live up there scattered among a half dozen communities that have all been evacuated.

"Hopefully they are out of there and not trying to stay and save their homes. That can all be replaced, it's all very devastating."

Investigators said the fire started early Tuesday morning and as temperatures rose, so did the column of smoke. The fire is on both sides of Highway 190, but firefighters said their priority is on the eastern side.

"The main effort is concentrated on the head of that fire to slow or stop the progression because it is moving toward communities," said District Ranger Eric Leprice.

Helicopters and planes did most of the grunt work Tuesday, and there are more firefighters on the way.

"That's extreme terrain. That's why they can't do anything. It's across the river from the stairs," said Morgan. "It's never burned in my lifetime or anyone's that I know of."

For families who need food and shelter, the Red Cross remains open at Porterville College.


Location: Along Highway 190 near Stairs

Total Personnel: 668

Size: 5,289 Acres

Evacuations: Tulare County has two levels of evacuations: voluntary and mandatory. A voluntary evacuation means residents should either evacuate or be prepared to do so should conditions worsen. All residents evacuating are advised to use eastbound Highway 190 to Mountain Road 107 (Western Divide Highway).

Mandatory: Pierpoint Springs, Wishon, Doyle Springs, Alpine, Sequoia Crest, Cedar Slope, Mountain Aire (Rogers Camp), and Camp Nelson

Volutary: Ponderosa

Evacuation Center: Porterville College at the Student Conference Center, 100 E. College Ave., Porterville. Call 1-800 REDCROSS.

Area Closures: Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest (CALFIRE) and Balch Park (Tulare County) are closed until the fire is brought under control.

Road closures:
East of Springville, Highway 190 is closed to eastbound traffic at Balch Park Road.
Mountain Road 107 (Western Divide Highway) is closed to westbound traffic Fox Road in Ponderosa.

Fire activity moderated significantly last night-growing less than 100 acres. Most growth occurred on the fire's west side in the Tule River drainage west of the Wishon drainage. On the northwest side, the fire also spread downslope toward the Wishon Road but did not spot across the road. On the northeast side of the fire, near the community of Sequoia Crest, crews protected structures and constructed contingency firelines away from the fire's edge in anticipating of the fire advancing northeast. On the east side, near Camp Nelson, the fire moved primarily west and south toward the Tule Indian Reservation.

At this morning's operational briefing, fire managers clearly identified the objective: fully suppress the fire by constructing mainly indirect (i.e., away from the fire's edge) fireline. The steep, rocky terrain, thick in places with vegetation that has not experienced fire in nearly 100 years, poses a threat to firefighters attempting to contruct fireline directly at the fire's edge. Priorities are to protect threatened residences, to keep the fire south of Mountain Home State Forest, and to protect the sequoia groves. Today, hand crews, heavy equipment operators, and structure-protection engines and firefighters will work on all sides of the fire. If needed, they will get assistance from 5 helicopters assigned to the incident.

Weather and Fire Behavior: Today will be very hot and dry. Temperatures could approach 103 degrees and the minimum relative humidity could get as low as 17 percent. Terrain-driven winds are expected to remain light this morning, increasing this afternoon with gusts up to 12-15 mph possible. As the inversion lifts and smoke dissipates this morning, fire activity is likely to increase. Fire Behavior Analyst Jeff Shelton told crews gathered at this morning's operational breifing, "If you can breathe better the fire can breathe better."
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