The Creek Fire was just 500 acres in size early on Saturday before exploding in size to 45,000 acres on Sunday, September 6. The fire prompted evacuations and even trapped about 200 people at Mammoth Reservoir Lake on Saturday. But why is the fire growing so fast? Although the original cause of the very first spark isn’t known, what is known is that the heat was so intense that the fire created its own weather and winds, helping the blaze spread. And a video may have captured the intense fire’s beginnings.
Here’s what you need to know.
A Video Appears to Show the Fire’s Start
The exact cause of the fire isn’t yet known. Typically Inciweb (an interagency all-risk incident information management system) may list a fire’s cause as either being lightning or being human activity. If there were thunderstorms in the region around the time the fire started, then lightning is listed as the cause. But so far, Inciweb has only said that the Creek Fire’s cause is “under investigation.”
Inciweb noted: “This vegetation fire is burning on the Sierra National Forest. The fire is located near the San Joaquin River and the communities of Big Creek and Huntington Lake. The cause is under investigation.”
You may be able to see the fire starting in this video near Shaver Lake below. It was picked up by a live feed camera which shows flames erupting quickly. Ken Carter, emergency manager and team member of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services, shared the video below.
— Ken Carter (@eocKen1) September 5, 2020
Carter wrote: “This looks like the start of the #creekfire near Shaver Lake from one of the cameras. What an accelerated start. Gonna be a bad day up there. Watch this video of the start.”
The Fire Grew Quickly from Dry Conditions, Heat, & Creating Its Own Weather Patterns
Although the exact cause isn’t yet known, the reason why it’s growing so fast is known. Fox News reported that the fire, which is 35 miles northeast of Fresno, grew quickly because of dry conditions in the region and hot weather.
In addition, the fire has been so intense that it created its own weather, which included winds that increased the fire’s growth. Dan Tune, national forest spokesman, said: “Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread.”
The fire jumped across the San Joaquin River on Saturday, helping it grow even more. In fact, the “weather” it created included multiple dry lightning strikes, Fox News reported. The fire created a pyrocumulonimbus cloud that forms if an intense heat source mixes with moisture from plants, even if the conditions are dry. It’s rare, but these can create their own weather patterns, including light rain and even lightning.
— Brad Panovich (@wxbrad) September 6, 2020
Daniel Swain, a climatologist, told Visalia Times Delta that the fire burned so fast and so intensely that it may have created a “pyrotornado” after the pyrocumulus cloud was formed.
All of this combined to create a perfect storm for a fire with explosive growth. The only thing not known yet is what sparked the original flame.
Numerous Evacuation Orders Have Been Issued
— Fresno Co Sheriff (@FresnoSheriff) September 6, 2020
The fire has caused numerous evacuation orders. For the Mammoth Pool rescue, over 200 people were evacuated and 20 had to be taken to area hospitals.
#mammothpool rescue is complete. Over 200 evacuated, 20 of those to area hospitals. Two stayed behind after refusing evacuation. #THANKYOU to our partners @Cal_OES @CalGuard @CAL_FIRE @ChpOakhurst @FresnoSheriff
— Madera Co. Sheriff (@MaderaSheriff) September 6, 2020
Your Central Valley reported the following evacuations the morning of September 6:
- All of the Shaver Lake area
- Huntington Lake area
- Camp Sierra
- Big Creek
And in Madera County, per Your Central Valley:
- Kinsman Flat
- Cascadel Woods
- Mammoth Pools
- Whisky Falls
- Clover Meadow and Surrounding Campgrounds
- Arnold Meadow
- Minarets Work Center
- Chiquito Campground
- Beasore Road North to Clover Meadow
- Huntington Lake
- Big Creek
- Beasore Meadows
An evacuation center has been set up at the North Fork Elementary School at 33087 Rd. 228, Sierra News Online reported. A temporary evacuation facility was also set up at Foothill Elementary School in Fresno County.