Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thunderboomers, Lightning Strikes, Mountain Fires

The Butler Peak Fire - Viewed from a location just South of the Village of Big Bear Lake - looking toward the West and North. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, copyright 2007

Thunderboomers, Lightning Strikes, Mountain Fires -

UPDATED With Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 Reports Continuing After Original Post

Labor Day weekend in the mountains about 100 miles East of Los Angeles provides a bit of drama for those willing to travel out to beat the record heat that is gripping the Southern California basin and valleys.

Yesterday several fires broke out around the Big Bear Lake area in the San Barnardino Mountains National Forest. The largest fire, “The Butler Peak Fire”, is continuing to burn this morning and may prove to be a little pesky.

This morning about 8:15 am, I decided to go up on a mountain overlook just above Ironwood Estates, just South of the Village of Big Bear Lake (the location was formally known as and was part of the Snow Forest Ski Area) to see if I might get some photos and video and to learn where the fire is located. Just beyond the dam on the West end of Big Bear Lake down Highway 18 toward Artic Circle about three to five miles I coud see where the fire had originated.

A finger of the fire is burning toward some cabins near the dam on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake. This is a little unusal, in that the morning report issued by the experts mentioned that the fire would grow to the North and to the East. The location of the finger is to the East from where the fire started but these cabins and the direction of the burn is to the South.

Excerpts from KBHR 93.3 FM and websites -

Butler Peak Fire Update – SoCal Mountains Scanner
02 Sep : 06:49AM

The fire has consumed 125 acres, and is 15% contained.

Large potential for growth to the north, and possibly to the east.

There is short mid-range spotting occuring.

A hard closure of Highway 18 remains in effect.

There is no immediate threat to any communites, including Green Valley Lake or Fawnskin.

Fire crews responding so far include 12 fire crews, 4 air tankers, 3 helicopters and a number of bulldozers with more assistance being called to the incident.

Three hundred firefighters have been on scene, with crews from the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry, San Bernardino County Fire, and the Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake Fire Departments.

In addition, there are a couple of small spot fires being reported on the hillsides south of the Big Bear Valley and fire crews are responding to them.

The cause of all the fires is believed to be lightning strikes due to thunderstorm activity on Saturday. Monsoonal flow and thunderstorms expected today will be aiding firefighters in suppressing the fire.

Monsoonal late summer clouds building up ... certain to bring moisture to the Big Bear valley and environs. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks, copyright 2007


Butler Fire update as of 8:30am 9/2/07:

The Butler fire is 5% contained and has consumed 150 acres.

Humidity is high and currently the winds are light although the firefighters are concerned about thunder storm activity today and the erratic winds related to such storms.

There are 5 helicopters and 10 fixed wing aircraft assigned to this fire.

Highway 18 remains closed between Snow Valley and the Big Bear Dam.


Butler Fire update as of 6pm 9/2/07:

The fire is located in extremely steep terrain 2 miles west of the Big Bear Dam.

There are no evacuations to any residential areas at this time. 350 personnel are assigned to the fire, including five helicopters and 4 airtankers15 engines, 12 handcrews, 6 dozers, 6 water tenders. John Miller of the US Forest service told KBHR news that the size of the fire has remained about 125 acres.

A thunderstorm passed over the fire area early this afternoon and actually helped the situation. The additional rainfall helped knock down some of the hot spots. They anticipate the containment to rise significantly from the 5% containment that is now being reported.

Because of the fire, SR-18 remains closed from Snow Valley Ski Area to the Big Bear Dam. There is a significant safety concern for firefighters and motorists due to the amount of debris, which includes rocks and trees that have come down onto the roadway.

Thunderstorms this afternoon resulted in four other small fires that were quickly knocked down by firecrews.

There were two fires near the Big Pine Flats area, one near Snow Summit, and one near Castle Rock.

Heavy rain earlier today also caused several mud & rockslides on Highway 38, one was located about 3 miles south of Angelus Oaks. SR-38 was closed for a short period of time in both directions, but quickly re-opened.

Caltrans is making an extra effort to keep Route 38, and Route 18 from Big Bear to Lucerne Valley, open to accommodate the large amount of heavy holiday traffic.

Butler Peak Lookout - Close-up of the scorched earth aound Butler Peak lookout left over from the fire that burned through yesterday. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks - copyright 2007


Butler Fire Update as of 9am Monday, 9/03/07:

The fire is situated in steep terrain in the Butler Peak area off Highway 18 at Arctic Circle, which is just west of the Big Bear Valley and three miles southwest of Fawnskin.

As of this morning, the U.S. Forest Service tells KBHR that they have remapped the area and the current assessment is that 85 acres have burned, including Saturday afternoon spot fires south of Highway 18.

Robin Prince of the U.S. Forest Service says, “Things went well yesterday. The rain was helpful and there were not significant winds to cause flare ups to the fire.” Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, CalFire, San Bernardino County Fire, the Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City Fire Departments, and the Arrowbear Fire Department remain on scene, including personnel from the California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and CalTrans.

Approximately 300 personnel are at work to aggressively suppress the Butler Fire, and water drops will continue this morning. Helicopters will be taking water from the west end of Big Bear Lake, so boaters are advised to head east on the lake to allow for safe helicopter activity.

All drivers are advised to head east when leaving the mountain: both Highway 18 through Lucerne and Highway 38 through Mentone are open. Highway 38 was closed for a short time on Sunday, due to mud and rock slides, but CalTrans has made an extra effort to clean the roadway, and it is open to all traffic. Motorists are advised to exercise caution while navigating mountain roads, as thunderstorm activity and rains may cause sudden and unexpected road conditions. Again, to leave the mountain, please access Highway 38 and Highway 18 east through Lucerne.

Thunderstorms on Sunday did result in four other small fires in the Big Bear area: two near the Big Pine Flats area, one near Castle Rock, and a fourth near Snow Summit. Each of those four fires was quickly contained yesterday.


UPDATE: Sept. 14, 2007 –

Excerpts taken from KBHR 93.3FM and SoCalMountains

Butler Peak Fire flares up! Photo from an airplane looking West and slightly North from a point over Snow Summit Ski Area. Image Credit: KBHR 93.3FM

Butler Peak Fire Incident #2

At approximately 1:30pm this afternoon, a fire started in the Butler Peak area near where the fire started over Labor Day weekend. This fire is being called the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 and was last reported to be 5 acres. A total of 6 aircraft have been called to the incident with 4 fixed wing aircraft, 1 large heli-tanker, 1 medium sized helicopter and fire crews. As of 2pm, highway 18 remains open but according to Caltrans that could change at any time depending on what happens with the fire. If possible, tune in to KBHR for more information.

As of 3:15pm, the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 is up to 200 acres and is burning to the North. Camp Whittle and Hannah Flats have been evacuated. Highway 18 is still open at this time. No evacuations have been called for the Big Bear communities.

As of 4:10pm, according to John Miller, the Public Information Officier for the U.S. Forest Service, the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 started at 1:21pm and the cause is under investigation. The fire remains at approximately 200 acres and is burning North. Only Camp Whittle and Hannah Flats have been evacuated. At this time, there has been no loss of structures. Three forestry roads have been closed and they are 3N16, 3N14 and 2N13. More assistance has been ordered to work on the fire. Currently there are 3 airtankers, 3 helicopters and numerous engines and hand crews on the scene. Highway 18 remains open at this time.

As of 5:40pm, the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 is burning in a northerly direction towards the western end of Holcomb Valley. At this time, the fire is at least 200 acres. No evacuations have been called for the communities of Big Bear.

Image Credit: KBHR 93.3FM

Scanner Reports –

Friday 14 September 2007 - 18:28:05
per scanner ( winds have died down , some but the tankers were still sitting at the tanker base, spot forcast said winds will diminish tonite but poor humidity recovery.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 18:49:37
perscanner ( lead 23 an earlystart with tankers at 08:00 will really benifit the butler fire , if air attack 15 is still assigned , hell be out first, tomrrow and then we will come in to assist, for planning to get AA15 out of the fire then leasd planes as needed. H 534 has landed at heaps peak.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 19:03:17
per scanner fire is pushing towards 300 acres right now colume is bulding , winds are going to die down alittle but your still going to have easterly winds bravo 23 heading back to fox.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 19:27:48
According to CHP scanner, report of fire at Silverwood Lake.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 19:59:04
per scanner - fire is very visible from lake arrowhead due to the fact that the fire is at the top of butler peak.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:14:28
When we came down Onyx summit about an hour ago, we could see some serious flames (probably 50-75 foot flame lengths). Kinda Scary.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:15:49
The fire line is very frightening to view from Lake Arrowhead. I am on the north west side of the lake so the fire is very far from me, but to say that the fire is only 200 acres is the joke of the century.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:20:51
00:51:45 GMT

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:23:48
no about 500 now, per scanner.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:32:59
arrowhead fire is not seperate fire but extension from butler ic fire , per scanner.

Friday 14 September 2007 - 20:34:36
perscanner ( chp stationed at the bottom of 3n14 rim of the world drive in fawnskin.

End Of UPDATE for 9-14-2007

Smoke over the mountains looking over Grout Bay toward the village of Fawnskin on the North shore of Big Bear Lake. Image Credit: KBHR 93.3FM

UPDATE: Butler Peak Fire Incident #2, As of 7:00 am Saturday 9/15/07 –

Highway 18 is closed between Snow Valley and Big Bear Dam due to the fire. The fire has consumed approximately 2000 acres. The fire progressed north north east overnight toward the Holcomb Valley and the high desert due in part to low humidity and windy conditions.
Report From KBHR 93.3FM

SoCalMountains Scanner/Chat –

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 07:15:37
something else to chew on from inciweb...not good news:
Growth Potential=Extreme

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 07:35:58
quick update for everyone from inciweb: Highway closures--Hwy 18 is closed from Snow Valley Ski Area to Big Bear Dam. Drivers may not access Big Bear from Hwy 18 or from Hwy 330 in San Bernardino, but Hwy 18 is open from Apple Valley (the high desert). Drivers may also access Big Bear via Hwy 38 from I-10 in Redlands.

Evacuations--Camp Whittle, Big Pine Flat, Ironwood, Hanna Flat Campgrounds, Yellow Post campsites in the area, and Butler Peak Lookout.

Forest Road Closures--2N13, both ends of 3N14, 4N16, 3N16 at Crab Flats, Grays Peak Trailhead.

Resources on Scene--11 hand crews, 11 engines, 2 helicopters, 8 airtankers 4 watertenders.

Total Personnel: 597
Size: 1,400 acres
Fuels Involved: Brush and Timber.
Fire Behavior: The incident experienced active burning throughout the night.

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 08:05:13
perscanner ( winds guesting to 24mph.

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 09:00:00
From INCIWEB: Butler 2 Wildland Fire - San Bernardino National Forest – California - 0% Contained - 4,000 Acres, number one wildland fire priority in the nation.

Photo taken at 9:36 AM from the westside of Eagle Point north toward the Solar Observatory. Image Credit: Maschoochas Bros. - SoCalMountains Forum

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 10:06:32
perscanner ( weve got fire on both sides of butler peak, lookout road, lots of snags - were not going to be able to hold this thing, it's in this drain and if it takes a turn we are going to need some protection here, structure protection here in camp whittle having some issues on this side too, trying to find a place to start.

keep BE40 here just in case we need to gel these buildings (camp whittle?) strike team of federal here now - red cross rep heading to command post H 509 enroute have they checked in? - they are in san bernadino getting fuel - red flag warning until sunday.

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 10:35:03
per scanner ordering up structure protection for fawnskin as well as possible mandatory evacs - checking on s.o. resources to assist with evac

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 10:40:05
Per Scanner: Fire is about 3.5 miles from Green Valley Lake. Heavy Fuel between the fire and GVL. If I was in GVL I would also prepare now just in case.

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 11:21:15
guys and gals just spoke with the PIO at CDF (Butler #2 Fire Information) And was told that I should be very concerned in Big Bear City - Not trying to scare anyone just relaying what I was told - The gentleman said that the winds have changed to the east and the fire has blown up (his words)

Smoke Plume as posted today taken 9-14-07 from a location northwest of Butler Peak near Hisperia. Image Credit: Daniel Elliott - INCIWEB

Summary From INCIWEB – Saturday 15 September 2007 - 11:40:00
The Butler 2 Fire was reported at 1:30 pm on Friday northwest of Big Bear Lake. Several Campgrounds north of Big Bear have been evacuated. No communities are currently threatened or evacuated.

Highway closures--Hwy 18 is closed from Snow Valley Ski Area to Big Bear Dam. Drivers may not access Big Bear from Hwy 18 or from Hwy 330 in San Bernardino, but Hwy 18 is open from Apple Valley (the high desert). Drivers may also access Big Bear via Hwy 38 from I-10 in Redlands.

Manadatory Evacuations for Fawnskin--The fire is currently about 4000 acres and is burning to the north and east. Mandatory evacuations have been called for the Fawnskin area from the Big Bear Dam to The Discovery Center north of Hwy 38. An evacuatiion center has been setup at the Big Bear High School in Sugarloaf.

Voluntary Evacuations have been called for Lucerne Valley from Crystal Creek Road on the east to High Rd on the west and North to the Ptizer Buttes area.


Photo taken of the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 from the Westridge (Snow Summit) cam at about 2:00 in the afternoon 9-15-2007. Image Credit: Bear Mountian Resorts

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 13:23:22
Snow Valley, CA — Authorities are evacuating outlying camps in the vicinity of Green Valley Lake. According to reports, the fire is burning unchecked on the western flank. Incident commanders are discussing whether to use the emergency telephone system, TENS, to notify Green Valley Lake area residents, but no final determination has been made

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 14:09:51

Satellite Image Link Here:
Posted At INCIWEB:
New Evacuations--Sept. 15, 230 pm--The entire community of Green Valley Campground Lake is under mandatory evacuation orders. Evacuation center is at Rim of the World High School.

Voluntary Evacuations have been called for Lucerne Valley from Crystal Creek Road on the east to High Rd on the west and North to the Pitzer Buttes area.

New Voluntary Evacuations--Sept. 15, 300 pm—From Downtown Running Springs east to Arrowbear Lake.
Sept. 15, 300 pm San Bernardino SUN - Inteview with forest service spokesperson, Judi McGuire - Burn Update: Fire splits and goes in two directions (northeast to Lucerne Valley and west toward Green Valley Lake). Acreage reset at 18,000 up from 4,000

View from the south shore looking from "Stillwell's" beach, north toward the Solar Observatory (15:10). Image Credit: Jordan L. - KBHR 93.3FM
Big Bear Valley as seen looking from the east over Baldwin Lake toward Fawnskin with smoke from the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 (15:45 - 9-15-07). Image Credit: Mark Poster

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 16:06:57
perscanner ( hwy closures)
hwy 18 closed from arrowbear lake to the bb dam- drivers may not accress hwy 18 or from hwy 330 in san bernadino but hwy 18 is open from apple valley ( high desert) drivers may also acress big bear via hwy 38 thru the I-10 mentone area

Converted DC10 Jet on a fire retardant drop at 15:30. The DC10 can drop enough retardant to cover 8/10ths of a mile. Image Credit: mountainmanor via SoCalMountains Forums

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 17:37:29
BBL mayor was just on NBC telling people there is no threat so come on up for Octoberfest and the event at Bear Mtn. ??????????

Saturday 15 September 2007 - 18:28:46
There is a threat to Fawnskin, hence the evacuation orders. So far they're doing a hell of a job painting a line.
KBHR 93.3 UPDATE 19:00:00: Fire Information Officer Jim Wilkins tells KBHR that the Butler #2 Fire has burned 18,000 acres, and is 5% contained. CalFire's DC-10 has been added to fire suppression equipment as of this morning.

Mandatory evacuations are in place for Fawnskin, and east to the Discovery Center on Big Bear Lake's North Shore. Evacuees are being directed to the Red Cross Evacuation Center at Big Bear High School (on Maple Lane in Big Bear City). As of 6:30pm, just two outbuildings at Camp Wittle have burned. No homes in the Fawnskin area have been burned.

Mandatory evacuation orders are also in place for residents of Green Valley. An evacuation center has been established at the Jerry Lewis Center in Highland.
Voluntary evacuations are in place for Running Springs, Arrowbear and Lucerne Valley. Evacuees of the Lucerne area are being directed to Victor Valley Community College in Victorville. (Please note that pets are not allowed at Red Cross evacuation centers.)

Highway 18 through Lucerne is open at this time. Highway 38 over Onyx Summit is open. Highway 18, down the front way, is open to those leaving the mountain, but is closed to up-bound traffic from Snow Valley to the Big Bear Dam.
From Rim Of The World.Net: Butler 2 Update - 7:00 PM
Running Springs, CA -- As the sun sets, some changes in localized wind direction will cause some to drift to areas previously unaffected. Residents in areas of Running Springs through Lake Arrowhead may smell some drift smoke from the fire.

As of 6:40 pm, there have been no changes to the evacuation orders. So far news reports indicate that one structure -- possibly an outbuilding -- has been lost at the YMCA owned Camp Whittle. One firefighter suffered minor injuries after tripping on a pothole.
Saturday 15 September 2007 - 19:58:00
per USDA Forest Service - acreage is at 13, 829 acres 5% contained
600 primary structure theatened
1,085 ffs on scene
observed fire behavior: running crowning and spotting
planned actions: continue to provide structure protection and direct and indirect line
cost to date: $ 1,500.000.00

Postings For Sunday, September 16, 2007 - Day three of the Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 continue here>>

Butler Peak Fire Links (all postings):

Butler Peak Fire Incident #1 (Labor Day Weekend 9-2-07) & #2 – Saturday

Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 – Sunday

Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 – Monday

Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 – Tuesday

Butler Peak Fire Incident #2 – Wednesday (final)

1 comment:

ecj said...

Excerpted from a forum -

03 Sep : 07:07AM - Butler Fire is listed at 45% containment. Acreage estimate on Butler fire has been downgraded to 85 acres.

The rain yesterday did a lot of their work for the fire fighting team. There will likely be an extended mop-up period to be sure it is out completely, but the fact that they are releasing some resources speaks to their confidence that the fire fighting management have a handle on it.