Storms during the last two months of 2015 left a consistent foot or less of wet snow on the ground. The measure on January 3rd was just over 8″. The system of storms hitting the west coast this week have taken the level to more than 24″ so far. Let’s hope and pray this is the beginning of a great snow pack.
As of 6:00 am on Thursday September 10, 2015, a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for Wilsonia and Grant Grove. Highway 180 is closed at Dunlap. The Generals Highway (198) is closed at the Red Fir Gate west of Wuksachi. Highway 245 is closed at Dry Creek.
The latest park news release reports:
An Evacuation Order is defined as, “Movement of community members out of a defined area due to an immediate threat to life and property from an emergency incident. An Evacuation Order should be used when there is potential or actual threat to civilian life within 1 to 2 hours or when the Incident Commander deems it necessary to protect civilians.”
With the increase of firefighting personnel and firefighting operations occurring in the Grant Grove area, and the potential for the Rough Fire to move into the area; the park management in cooperation with the Rough Fire Incident Management Team have made the decision to close the Grant Grove area, and order the evacuation.
Very happy to report that things are looking up in Wilsonia!
Park and fire officials today were optimistic that the threat to Wilsonia from the Rough Fire has lessened. (We were never in immediate danger, but our fire risk is even lower than it was a day or two ago.) The areas of the south flank of the fire that were the biggest threat to Grant Grove and Wilsonia are being controlled. The fire is still growing, but it is moving in directions that don’t really affect Wilsonia.
The fire is far from contained, but we are in much less danger.
An NPS press release late this afternoon indicated Grant Grove facilities will reopen in stages over Monday and Tuesday. Wilsonia will reopen to visitor access Monday morning.
Air quality is still unhealthy, especially overnight, though residents who were in the village this afternoon report that it seemed much better today.
Thanks to the firefighters for their hard work to keep the fire away from Hume Lake, Grant Grove and Wilsonia.
Effective at 6am tomorrow (Saturday), access to Wilsonia and Grant Grove will be restricted. This is not an evacuation notice or warning, and there is still no direct fire threat to Wilsonia at this time.
Visitors (meaning non-Wilsonians) will not be allowed to enter the area. Grant Grove facilities, including the Visitor Center and the Post Office, are temporarily closed.
This restriction is primarily due to concerns about air quality from smoke, not fire risk. Air quality in the village has been ranging from “very unhealthy” to “hazardous,” and the park recommends that Wilsonians avoid exposing themselves to these risks.
Prohibiting access by non-Wilsonians will keep visitors, rubberneckers and other nosy people from blocking traffic, impeding fire crews, and unnecessarily exposing themselves to the unhealthy air quality.
If you choose to go to your cabin after the restrictions begin, tell the ranger at the entrance station that you are going to your cabin in Wilsonia. You will be given a special permit which will allow you to access your cabin, but not other areas of the park. When you leave, secure your cabin in the event that you are unable to return for an extended period.
Notices about the limited access have been posted in Wilsonia this evening.
The status of the fire is relatively unchanged since our last update. Park officials remain very confident that Wilsonia is not in immediate danger, and praised the “donut” of defensible space around Wilsonia and Grant Grove.
A back-burn ignited near Hume Lake yesterday has helped crews establish a more defensible space against the path of the fire. This significantly increased smoke in the area and enlarged the plume of smoke you may have seen from the Valley yesterday.
Air quality is the primary concern for park officials right now. This was the major reason behind the closure of Grant Grove lodging yesterday. Air quality in Grant Grove has been measured as very unhealthy due to smoke, and has reached hazardous levels overnight. Everyone in the village should avoid prolonged, heavy exertion. Older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. https://www.dropbox.com/s/qqpblsmxg4st7sr/roughfirearareport_082115.pdf?dl=0
At the meeting this afternoon, fire officials recommended a couple of actions:
Sign up for AlertTC, if you have not already. Multiple agencies have partnered with Tulare County to use their emergency alert system, including the Park Service. Sign up here: http://www.alerttc.com/alerttc/
Cabin owners should “prepare for success” in this event. If you haven’t done adequate defensible space cleaning around your property, it is not too late to do so. If you choose to do additional cleaning around your cabin, please be cautious of the air quality, and avoid over-exerting yourself.
Finally, park and fire officials were asked at this afternoon’s meeting about possible evacuation procedures. We were told that in the event of an evacuation, residents will be given ample time between an evacuation warning and a mandatory evacuation order. If you choose to come to Wilsonia and collect a few sentimental items from your cabin for peace of mind, now is a good time to do so, as Wilsonia is not currently under any access restrictions.