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Update: Butte Fire 35% Contained at 71,523 Acres

Update at 9pm: The winds blew across the Butte Fire all day long and a little rain fell, and luckily, Cal Fire Public Information Officer Shawn Sternick reports firefighters were able to hold most the lines. He adds the breeze will continue to torment crews tonight, saying, “We’re still concerned about gusts of winds that are suspected up to 45 miles per hour. This is still an active fire…we’re not letting our guard down. Crews will still be working diligently through the night hoping to make additional progress on the fire’s containment.”

Sternick says crews focus is to lengthen the lines as far as possible in an effort to beat the warmer temperatures expected to begin on Wednesday.

Update at 7:03 p.m.: Cal Fire just released new data on the Butte Fire that indicates it is now 35 percent contained at 71,523 acres. Tragically, the flames have claimed more structures, destroying 166 homes and 116 outbuildings while damaged 12 additional structures.

Cal Fire Incident Command officials also report that the fire behavior remained moderate throughout the day, moving southeast, which allowed crews to be more effective in controlling the perimeter. Firefighters continue to fight the wildfire aggressively but critical fuel moisture levels, steep terrain, and limited fire access are continuing to provide challenges.

*note Calaveras Big Trees State Historic Park and Grinding Rock State Historic Park (in Pine Grove) remain closed for both camping and day-use through Tuesday. They are scheduled to reopen Wednesday. Refunds for camping and cabins were issued.

Update at 6:40pm:  Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) reports due to the Butte Fire, all schools in the district will be closed through this Friday, September 18.
Superintendent Mark Campbell released this statement this evening:

“On Monday, September 21, Calaveras High School, Gold Strike High School, Toyon Middle School and San Andreas, Valley Springs and Jenny Lind Elementary Schools are all planning to open. The ability for the sites located in San Andreas to open on Monday is dependent upon the status and direction of the fire.  Rail Road Flat, West Point and Mokelumne Hill Elementary Schools will open at a later date, yet to be determined.”

As reported earlier today, school has been canceled, through Wednesday, for the entire Bret Harte Union High School District, Mark Twain Union Elementary School District, and the Vallecito Union School District. As it stands right now, classes will resume on Thursday. Our school delays page is here.

Update at 6:15pm: Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) is offering free water to those impacted by the Butte Fire. CCWD spokesperson Joel Metzger reports that, due to the disaster, the district has opened up three emergency fill stations to county residents who have lost access to their water source. Potable water will provided free of charge on a temporary basis at these locations:

  • West Point Fire Station, 195 Spink Road, West Point
  • Ebbetts Pass Fire Station, 1037 Blagen Road, Arnold
  • Jenny Lind Water Treatment Plant, 3561 Silver Rapids Road, Valley Springs

Metzger says the stations will be open 24/7, but not manned. The public will need to bring their own containers.

In addition, the district reports it is working closely with the Butte Fire Incident Command. “Our operations staff is providing IC with access to water supplies that can be used in key locations to combat the fire,” according to Dave Eggerton, CCWD general manager.

 Update at 5 pm: Cal Fire Incident Command has released a new map of the Butte Fire footprint. It can be seen in the upper left hand box.  The last update on the fire’s size from Cal Fire put it at more than 71,000 acres and 30% contained. Sadly, the flames have destroyed 135 homes and 79 out buildings while four structures have been damaged.

Update at 4:21pm:Nearly 1,000 people in the Clinton area east of Jackson in Amador have had their power restored.

The PG&E map shows 4,526 are still without power due to the Butte Fire and the outages note “PG&E is unable to access the affected equipment.” The outage to the southeast of Jackson was listed at 1,424 yesterday and today there are 505 a decrease of 919 outages. Click here for the map.

No firefighters have been injured battling the blaze and there have been no fatalities in the Butte Fire.

Update at 3:15pm: The winds have kicked up this afternoon along the Butte Fire footprint. CAL Fire Public Information Officer Shawn Sternick says it is creating problems on the fire lines. “The wind is not working in our favor. We’re getting strong winds…we don’t have any reports of any extreme fire behavior, but at this point it’s definitely caused some flare-ups. We do have another 48 hours until Wednesday when the temperatures get back into the 90s…We’re trying to use this window in our favor to get ahead of the fire and make good progress. That’s where we are right now on fire suppression.”

A notable area where a flare-up occurred is near West Point, where the additional mandatory evacuation orders were issued this afternoon.

Update at 2:10pm: The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office reports that there is increased fire activity this afternoon near West Point. A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for Woodhouse Mine Road, Stanley Road, and Rabbits Foot Road. Residents along those streets are advised to leave immediately. Click here to view a map of that general area.

Update at 2pm: One of the major stretches of road that remains closed due to the Butte Fire is Highway 26 from Lafayette Street to the Calaveras/Amador County line. Caltrans spokesperson Rick Estrada reports that the stretch of Highway 26 is expected to reopen  sometime Wednesday, conditions permitting.

Update at 11:55am: School has been canceled, through Wednesday, for the entire Bret Harte Union High School District, Mark Twain Union Elementary School District, and the Vallecito Union School District. As it stands right now, classes will resume on Thursday.

Calaveras Unified School District has not yet made a decision about its schedule for the remainder of the week. The district’s schools are closed today.

Update at 9:58am: Fires in California are now top priority in the nation, shifting national resources from Washington State Fires. Here is what the National Interagency Fire Center says, “California became the nation’s top priority as hot, dry, and windy conditions caused large fires to make significant runs yesterday. The Valley fire burned hundreds of homes and businesses. Thousands of residents near these fires have been evacuated. Safety of firefighters and the public is the primary concern as fire managers work to contain these fires. The National Preparedness is at Level 4 with 5 being the most prepared and 1 being the least. Level 4 means: Three (3) or more Geographic Areas are experiencing incidents requiring Type 1 and 2 Incident Management Teams. Competition exists for resources between Geographic Areas. Nationally, 60% of Type 1 and 2 Incident Management Teams and crews are committed.”

Update at 6:50am: CAL Fire reports that the size of the Butte Fire has grown, but progress was made overnight building containment lines. It has increased to 71,063 acres and it is 30% contained.

Original Story at 6:30am: Governor Jerry Brown will speak this morning about the Butte and Valley Fires.

The Governor has issued state of emergency declarations for the Butte Fire, burning in Calaveras and Amador Counties, and the Valley Fire, burning in Lake County, north of San Francisco. The latest size estimate of the Butte Fire is 65,300 acres with 25% containment. The Valley Fire is 61,000 acres and it is 5% contained. Yesterday afternoon the aircraft battling the Butte Fire was diverted to the Lake Fire. The Lake Fire has resulted in 400 structures destroyed, and the Butte Fire has destroyed 135 homes and 79 outbuildings.

The Governor will receive a briefing with CAL Fire head Ken Pimlott at the State Operations Center, just outside of Sacramento, and then provide an update at around 9:30am.

For the next day’s coverage of the Butte Fire click here.

For yesterday’s coverage click here.

Butte Fire General Facts

  • California Butte Fire is FEMA incident number 5111 (FM-5111)
    • Fire Management Assistance Declaration declared on September 10, 2015
    • Those with damaged and destroyed property relating to the Butte Fire can call for tax relief assistance. Our Detailed news story here.
    • According to County Assessor Leslie Davis, under state law, those whose property or homes are damaged or destroyed in the Butte Fire may qualify for property tax relief under certain circumstances, such as if the loss exceeds $10,000.
  • Red Cross Evacuation Centers are up running at the Jackson Rancheria Hotel, Jenny Lind Veterans Hall and Valley Springs Good Samaritan Church.
  • Other groups have set up evacuation centers at the Burson Full Gospel Church, Burson Glory Bound Fellowship, and the Copperopolis Elementary School.
  • Large Animal Pet Shelters: (Calaveras) Calaveras County Fairgrounds (Amador) Amador County Fairgrounds.
  • Red Cross Safe and Well website is here to register your current status and check for registrants.
  • Roads in the area are needed for emergency workers to get to where they need be. Residents and visitors should avoid the area.
  • Evacuation procedure and preparation information Community Section under Fire Info here
  • Started Wednesday, Sep 9 at 2:36PM
    • 160 acres initially
    • 2,600 overnight reported at 6am Thursday,
    • 4,000 acres reported at 7am
    • 14,000 acres reported at 9am
    • Friday acreage went from 31,974 acres to 64,728 acres.
    • Public Information Officer Julie Rider notes firefighting hampered [Saturday] due to an inversion layer, with low lying smoke, that prevented aircraft from flying.
    • Saturday to Sunday grew an additional 18,572
  • The Butte Fire is managed by a CAL Fire Type 1 incident management team, (the highest priority incident level) Cooperating agencies include CAL OES, the Forest Service, BLM, PG&E, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, Amador County Sheriff’s Office, Red Cross, Caltrans, CA State Parks and the Amador Fire Protection District.
  • At least one case of looting reported Saturday morning in relation to the Butte Fire. The Placer CHP division reports that a suspect was taken into custody
  • Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office responded to looting complains: Law enforcement is brought in from outside the area, through mutual aid agreements, to help provide additional patrol.
  • The Red Cross considers the Butte Fire a national disaster and wants everyone who evacuates to register at one of the shelters so that they can prove the numbers, and keep track of the displaced for their planning for relief and recovery efforts. The Red Cross info line is 925-588-6678.
  • Calaveras County Public Health has a plan in place for the senior population. Red Cross can help get medications for seniors. Seniors who are frail can get three days shelter, air purifiers and transportation. Call Common Ground Senior Services for more information, at 209-498-2246.
  • The Jail and Sheriff’s Office have not been evacuated. The convalescent home is also currently ok, with fire lines around it.
  • Mark Twain Medical Center services remained opened in all of their patient care centers; with the exception of both the Copperopolis Medical Center and the Arnold Medical Center.
  • Click here to read a story about smoke concerns.
  • Tuolumne County Health Officer Liza Ortiz: Elderly, very young children and those with health conditions including asthma or COPD should limit their outdoor activities when visibility less than 5 miles.
  • Calaveras County Supervisors declared a local state of emergency due to the Butte Fire at 1:40 Thursday September 10th Details here
  • Governor Jerry Brown declared the Butte Fire a statewide emergency reported at 3:50pm Friday