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Mill Fire reaches 18,985 acres; burnout operations help firefighting effort

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071212millfireburnout
Burnout operations are being used to reduce fuel in the path of the Mill Fire in Colusa County, Calif. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – More smoke rose into a column over the horizon on Thursday as firefighters used burnout operations to thin fuel in the path of the state’s largest wildland fire.

The Mill Fire reached 18,985 acres on Thursday, with 40 percent of the blaze contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Full containment is anticipated next Friday, July 20.

The firefighting effort has cost a reported $5 million so far.

The fire has been burning in brush and timber for nearly a week in the Colusa County side of the Mendocino National Forest, north and east of Upper Letts Lake. The cause remains under investigation.

Firefighters made progress securing fire lines along the east and west flanks of the fire, and the north flank continued to hold well, according to an incident team report.

Forest officials reported that the burnout operations began Thursday afternoon along the southern and eastern flanks of the fire, and were set to continue into the night. Crews used aerial and hand ignition techniques to burn out fuels and strengthen containment lines.

Where slope and wind direction aligned, the fire continued to back down the slope and run uphill, the incident team reported.

The resources and personnel assigned to the incident remain substantial.

Approximately 1,582 firefighting personnel were on scene Thursday, along with 29 Type 1 crews, 13 Type 2 crews, eight helicopters, 100 engines, 19 dozers and 12 water tenders.

A closure order remains in effect for the Mendocino National Forest for all roads and trails in the recreation area outside Stonyford on the south central portion of the Grindstone Ranger District.

Officials said the fire has impacted 90 miles – or two-thirds – of the Grindstone Ranger District’s off-highway vehicle trail system.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that East Park Reservoir in Colusa County was closed to recreational activities due to safety concerns including air quality and emergency vehicles operating in the area.

Local Forest Service officials and the incident management team are in close communication with local air quality management districts, and also are working with agricultural business operations in nearby areas. In addition, the Forest Service and the California Air Resources Board have set up smoke monitors.

The fire has resulted in air quality alerts in Lake and Mendocino counties, with clearer conditions and slightly cooler temperatures expected Friday.

Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] .

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Last Updated ( Friday, 13 July 2012 02:54 )