Snow Fire update 18th September 2020

UPDATED 18th September @ 1710. Mixed news. Containment remains 5%. Reportedly air attack indicated 4500 acres burned at about 1600 (Cal Fire later put the figure at 4200 acres). The fire is holding on the east sides within the retardant and ridges to the west, but is spreading to the south and up the drainages/canyons.

UPDATED 18th September @ 1520. The latest report indicates 3500 acres burned at 5% containment. That acreage is roughly what I saw visibly burned this morning, as described below, suggesting that while the level of formal containment may be low, the fire has not changed dramatically in the past few hours and is not burning out-of-control. This could change at any time of course.

The Snow Fire started near the village of Snow Creek yesterday 17th September at about 1440. The cause was apparently a vehicle problem on Snow Creek Road that led to a vegetation fire. Gusty afternoon winds quickly dispersed embers widely onto the sides of the canyon, including just above Snow Creek community and on Blaisdell Ridge. By dusk last night, the fire was 1200 acres, burning in at least four separate spots. Special thanks to Florian Boyd for on-location information on 17th.

This fire is now impacting the lower north face of San Jacinto Peak up to about 5000ft in multiple canyons between the PCT to the west and approaching Blaisdell Canyon to the east.

UPDATED 18th September @ 0950. Currently the official estimate is at 2500 acres. A big fire front made a significant run up the West Fork drainage below the PCT, up to near 5000ft elevation, between 0830-0930. The fire crossed the PCT in that area at about 0900. With up to four air tankers in the air, including a DC-10 type, there were multiple retardant drops roughly perpendicular to the PCT at or above about 5000ft. Although the fire got into thicker chaparral creating lots of smoke, it appeared to be slowing down in that area by about 0945.

The entire isthmus (between Snow Creek East Fork and Falls Creek) burned overnight to its narrowest point at about 4200ft elevation. Spot fires remain smoldering in Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages below about 4000ft, although almost all of the riparian vegetation survived unburned. The community of Snow Creek and the DWA facilities appear to be undamaged.

All morning the fire was burning in small patches on both flanks of Blaisdell Ridge up to c.5000ft. Prior to 0900, the focus of retardent drops was on the east flank of this ridge, slowing progress of the fire toward Palm Springs and the Tramway area. By 0930 the fire seemed to be petering out on Blaisdell in part because it is so rocky with relatively little fuel.

Although by late morning the prognosis for containment appeared to be somewhat positive, obviously this could change dramatically at short notice, as we have seen in so many other places in recent weeks. While the perimeter of the burned area may be several thousand acres, actual burning has been patchy within that due to rocky terrain and sparse vegetation in many areas.

In addition to the fire movement at its east end towards the Windy Point area (NW of Palm Springs), the main area of concern will be any movement westward up the West Fork drainage. By late morning there was an active fire front less than a mile from One Horse Ridge, and little more than two miles from the Fuller Ridge campground and trailhead.

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