Eight of California’s 800+ Wildfires Started in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Air tanker drops fire retardant. Photo by arbyreed via Flickr.

A weather system that moved into California from the Pacific over the weekend brought powerful lightning storms that lashed the state with 5,000 to 6,000 lightning strikes. On Monday morning the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported that more than 800 lightning-set wildfires, including many large uncontained ones, were burning in the state.

Fire crews from several states continue to battle hundreds of lightning-caused wildfires across northern California. Nearly all of the hundreds of wildfires tallied in the aftermath of the electrical storms--at least 842 as of Monday morning--were started in the northern part of the state.

At least eight of the northern California wildfires were started at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in Shasta County. Several of the fires started in the park by last Saturday's electrical storm have since been contained and are in map up and patrol status.

As of Wednesday, however, firefighters at Whiskeytown were still battling four active wildfires that had already torched an estimated 2,100 acres and were still uncontained. Whiskeytown's steep and rugged terrain complicates suppression efforts.

To see a map of the fires in the Whiskeytown vicinity, visit this site.

Officials believe that the four fires on the north and southwest sides of Shasta Bally (elev. 6,209 ft.) will merge into one or two large fires. These will threaten power lines serving a communications site on the mountaintop as well as high voltage transmission lines and several inholdings.

Additional problems loom at Whiskeytown. A fifth fire (size unknown) is burning at the park's southern boundary, and several more that are burning outside the park may enter Whiskeytown within the next few days. Poor visibility and related factors have hindered risk assessment.

As might be expected, the fires have heavily impacted visitor use of the park. Heavy smoke has reduced visibility throughout the park, lowered air quality dramatically, and curtailed many recreational activities.

Park officials have closed Peltier Valley Road, Shasta Bally Road at Kennedy Memorial Drive, and all trails above Kennedy Memorial Drive as well as the trail to Boulder Creek Falls. Backcountry campsites closed include Brandy Creek 1, 2, and Sheep Camp. For up to date information, visit this site.

Created in 1965, the 203,000-acre Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is situated eight miles west of Redding at the juncture of the Klamath Mountain Range and the northern edge of the Sacramento Valley. The mountainous terrain, abundant water (including the 3,200-acre Whiskeytown Lake reservoir), and related facilities offer opportunities for camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, paddling, scuba diving, and other outdoor activities. Whiskeytown drew 782,000 visitors in 2007.

A point of clarification is in order. Whiskeytown is actually just one unit of a three-unit entity formally titled Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. The U.S. Forest Service manages the Shasta and Trinity units, while the National Park Service administers the Whiskeytown unit.