SHAVER LAKE (CBS SF) — After several days of relatively calm breezes, the small army of firefighters battling the massive Creek Fire — burning in the tinder-dry, bark-beetle infected Sierra National Forest — braced Sunday for a dramatic shift in weather conditions that could renew the blaze’s threat to the mountain communities of Auberry, Shaver Lake and Old Brentz Mill.
By Sunday morning, the fire had consumed 201,908 acres with thousands of residents and campers being forced to flee to safety. The blaze was just 8 percent contained in the heavily wooded, steep and challenging terrain.
Cal Fire officials said a new weather system was moving into the area Sunday evening.
“Daytime temperatures will warm into the 80s and stronger winds over the fire will allow for better mixing and less smoke,” officials said in a Sunday morning release. “Winds over the highest peaks will gust up to 35 mph. The winds will be mostly terrain driven, continuing to move the fire into deep canyons. Communities affected will be Auberry, Shaver Lake and Old Brentz Mill. Short range spotting will continue to be an issue throughout the fire.”
“The change in conditions is expected to lead to more active fire behavior,” they added. “With the active fire behavior, the focus is on structure defense.”
Currently, the fire has burned at least 369 structures, including dozens of homes in the popular vacation area. There were 2,301 firefighters manning the lines with additional resources expected to arrive Sunday.
The Creek Fire erupted Sept. 4 near Big Creek and Huntington Lake. The cause remained under investigation.
Huntington Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Donnelly told the Fresno Bee that a firenado scorched the area near Huntington Lake when the Creek Fire initially picked up in intensity on Sept 5th.
The large flames and high winds caused many trees to be uprooted in the old meadow area in front of Kennolyn Camps on the north side of Huntington Lake.
At the Saturday night fire briefing, Fresno County Sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Gilbert said three people had been arrested for running roadblocks on the borders of the evacuated areas.
“While we all understand the frustration and feelings of the need to get to your home and check on your property, we have those roadblocks in place for safety reasons,” he said. “If you make the decision to run the roadblocks, we are going to chase you down and arrest you.”