Companion blog: Adventures In Stoving

Friday, June 19, 2015

Lake Fire – San Gorgonio Wilderness

UPDATE 16 July 2015:  Many areas in and near the San Gorgonio Wilderness are currently closed due to the Lake Fire, but the Forest Service has opened much of the southern portion of the wilderness (which did not burn).  See Updated Lake Fire Closure Map for details.

Lake Fire, San Gorgonio Wilderness, June 2015
It is with deep regret that I must announce that the San Gorgonio Wilderness currently has a large fire burning in it, the Lake Fire.  The entire wilderness is closed.  All wilderness permits are cancelled.  If you have camping reservations that you have paid for, my information is that you should contact the issuer of the reservation for a refund.

Updates, 6/26/2015, 0800 Hours
A new fire perimeter map has been issued.  There is a lot of fire grown in the East Northeast sector of the fire; this is outside the San Gorgonio Wilderness.  The good news for the San Gorgonio Wilderness is that the fire within the wilderness did not significantly penetrate new areas.  However, MODIS thermal (i.e. heat) sensing indicates a lot of active burning in the N Fork of the Whitewater River area.  MODIS also indicates buring in the vicinity of High Meadow Springs.  I continue to hold out hope that High Meadow Springs, a very lovely area that I've camped at multiple times, will not burn.  For MODIS information, refer to the interactive maps, below (several paragraphs down).  Areas of active burn are indicated by red dots.  MODIS data is not particularly precise, so don't freak out if you see a red dot in an area far outside the perimeter.  I'll put an excerpt of plotted MODIS data below this morning's perimeter map.  The excerpt is just for the N Fork Whitewater River area and vicinity.

More good news:  No further burning on the flanks of San Gorgonio Mountain is indicated.  It would be a true shame if the krumholtz forest (pines dwarfed by harsh conditions at high elevation) atop the high peaks of the San Gorgonio were to burn.  It would take centuries upon centuries for such a fragile high elevation forest to regenerate.
Lake Fire Perimeter Map, 06/25/2015 0600 hours
MODIS data plotted on a 1:24,000 topographic map.  Data current as of 0800 on 6/26/2015
There's still a lot of active burning going on.  This is far from over.

Updates, 6/25/2015, 2300 Hours
No map updates have been issued, but the Lake Fire has now grown to 25,599 acres (yipes!) and containment has shrunk to 19%.  Containment was up around 40% a couple of days ago, but wind direction changed and the fire turned sharply north.  7,390 structures are considered threatened, but no structures have been lost.
Even though no map updates have been issued, MODIS thermal (i.e. heat) imaging is up to date and one can see that activity has decreased in the N. Fork of the Whitewater area, but there is still a lot of activity.  It looks like Lake Peak has completely burned over which is a real shame because it was really beautiful on top, deeply forested.
To the north, the fire has really mushroomed and spread.  The north eastern sector of the fire may turn out to be as large or larger than the original fire sector in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Updates, 6/25/2015, 0600 Hours
1.  The Lake Fire has now burned the east flanks of San Gorgonio Mountain.  The Sky High Trail has been burned over in multiple spots.  The fire has also burned up to about 10,000 feet on the east flank of Bighorn Mountain.  It's a sad day for San Gorgonio Wilderness lovers.
Lake Fire Perimeter detail, vicinity San Gorgonio Mountain, as of 25 June 2015, 0600 hours.
2. The fire has also advanced considerably to the north overnight and has now burned into Pipes Canyon.
Lake Fire perimeter map, 06/25/2015, 0600 hours.

Updates, 6/24/2015, 1800 Hours
1.  The Lake Fire today made a dramatic end run around containment lines and burned about three miles to the north.  Camp Oakes on the north side of Onyx Summit was evacuated.  This is a very serious development.  KML files have not been posted to the public server, so I'll add a static map here.  The fire also burned more of the North Fork of the Whitewater River and Hell-For-Sure drainages.  I looks like it also moved a little bit further down the South Fork of Mission Creek.  I've placed blue rectangles on the map below that indicate areas where the fire is growing.
Lake Fire perimeter map as of 6/24/2015, 1800 hours.

2.  A Forest Order was issued today that closed the entire San Gorgonio Wilderness and also closed non wilderness areas to the east until October 1, 2015.  Closing the entire wilderness, particularly those areas not touched by the fire, seems overly Draconian to me.  The closed area is mapped below.
Forest Order 05-12-51-15-03, the Lake Fire Closure area.  Everything is closed in the SGW, even areas outside the burn.

Fire Progression Map of the Lake Fire, 6/24/2015.
Here is a map of the progression of the Lake Fire.  Green indicates the oldest burn.  Red indicates the newest burn.  There's a lot of new burning in the North Fork of the Whitewater River area.  Alas, it now appears that Mine Shaft and Big Tree Camps are toast.

The silver lining here is that maybe the long brush choked Big Tree Track (a short cut from Mine Shaft Camp to Big Tree Camp) may become passable again.  It might also be possible to venture down the North Fork from Big Tree Camp.  Previously, it was darned near impossible to go downstream from Big Tree because the brush was so thick.
Fire Progression Map of the Lake Fire as of 6/24/2015, 0600 hours.
Green = oldest; Red = Newest

Time Lapse Video of the Lake Fire 

Topographic Fire Map
An interactive map of the fire is displayed below.  You will need to zoom way in to make any sense of it.  This is my Interactive San Gorgonio Wilderness Area Map with the Lake Fire burn perimeter shown in gold color cross hatching.  I like it because I can see where things are a lot better on a topo.

It's a little cluttered because I have a lot of trails and camps marked.  I'll put a clearer image down below if you just want to see the burn area and the topo map.

Trail Camp Status 6/25/2015 (assuming the maps are accurate) from generally west to east:
Jackstraw Springs:  OK
Trail Fork Springs:  OK
Anderson Flat:  Possibly burned (can't tell from map as of 6/24/2015).
Shields Flat:  Burned.
High Meadow Springs:  Possibly burned (can't tell from map as of 6/24/2015).
Red Rock Flat:  Burned.
Dollar Lake:  Burned.
Dry Lake View:  OK
Grinnell Ridge:  Burned.  By the look of it, pretty badly (based on photos I've seen).
Dry Lake:  Burned.
Lodgepole:  Burned.
Trail Flat:  Possibly burned (can't tell from map as of 6/24/2015).
Summit:  OK, but threatened
Fish Creek Saddle:  Burned.
Fish Creek: Burned
Mineshaft Flat:  Burned
Big Tree:  Burned.

9 trail camps definitely burned.
3 trail camps possibly burned
12 out of a total of 25 trail camps (48%) have burned or have possibly burned.
Note:  This represents my best guess based on the available maps.

Red = burned.
Yellow = possibly burned.
Green = unburned.

Trail Status 6/25/2015 (assuming the map is accurate) from generally west to east:
Forsee Creek Trail:  Minimal Burning along some of the easternmost switchbacks.
San Bernardino Peak Divide Trail:  Burned over in three places.
     1.  Between Anderson and Shields Flat
     2.  Near Alto Diablo
     3.  Most or all of Red Rock Flat
South Fork Trail:  Burned.
Dollar Lake Trail:  Burned all the way to Dollar Lake Saddle.
Dry Lake Trail:  Burned up to and past Dry Lake.  Trail Flat might not have burned (yet).
Santa Ana River Trail:  Burned along much of its route from vicinity South Fork Campground east to the Heart Bar area.
Lost Creek Trail:  Burned.
Fish Creek Saddle Trail (from Lodgepole Spring):  Burned.
Fish Creek Trail:  Burned.
Sky High Trail:  Burned.  The fire has now crossed the Sky High Trail in multiple places.
North Fork Meadows Trail:  Burned (majority)
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT):  Burned over a ~six mile stretch to the east of the San Gorgonio Wilderness

Yes, I know the PCT is outside the wilderness, but it's an important trail.  Same with the Santa Ana River Trail.

Topo Map Without All the Clutter.
So, maybe you don't want to see all of my trail camp, trail, etc. markings.  Here's a hopefully clearer map using Gmap4 which is maintained by Joseph Elfelt.  You can also open this map in a separate page.   The green line is the San Gorgonio Wilderness Boundary.  The bright red dots indicate that MODIS (satellite based infrared) thermal sensors are picking up heat.  They are NOT very precise, but they do indicate fire activity somewhere in the general vicinity.

Appendix – US Forest Service PIO Maps

23 June 2015, 1800 Hours.  See comments below image.
Lake Fire Perimeter Map as of 1800 hours 23 June 2015
The fire is active on the east side of Ten Thousand Foot Ridge and in the drainage of the North Fork of the Whitewater River.  The fire has now crossed the North Fork of the Whitewater River.  There is also active burning west of High Meadow Springs and in the Coon Creek drainage.

23 June 2015, 0600 Hours.  See comments below image.
Lake Fire Perimeter Map as of 0600 hours 23 June 2015
The latest PIO fire perimeter map shows growth in the Big Tree area as well as east to the Coon Creek Jump Off area which is consistent with what the MODIS sensors are report.  It's hard to tell from the map, but Big Tree Camp may now be toast.  The fire is clearly threatening it.  It wouldn't bother me in the least to have all the brush in the North Fork of the Whitewater River drainage cleaned out.  That is some dense, nasty stuff.

22 June 2015, 0600 Hours.  I've highlighted some areas with green rectangles.  See comments below image.
Lake Fire Perimeter Map as of 0600 hours 22 June 2015
Comments on the above highlighted areas from left to right:
1.  It looks like there's been a bit more growth on the south side of the divide near Anderson and Shields Flats, but it's been minimal.
2.  There's been more burning in the Dry Lake area.  The fire has gone up into the "glacial chop country" (the moraine fields west of Dry Lake.  It looks like Dry Lake is nearly encircled.  This doesn't look good for the Dry Lake and Lodgepole trail camps.
3.  The fire on the south side of Ten Thousand Foot Ridge appears to have grown, but only slightly.
4.  There's been some growth to the fire on the eastern edge, particularly around Coon Creek Cabin and Coon Creek Jump Off.

General comments:  Notice the solid black line on the northern edge of the fireline.  It looks like the USFS has a pretty high degree of confidence in the solidity of the fire line in this area.

21 June 2015, 1400 Hours.  I'll make comments on the progress of the fire below the map.
Lake Fire Perimeter Map as of 1400 hours 21 June 2015
I've drawn several rectangles in bright green on the above map.  Notes from left to right:
1.  You can see that the fire overtopped the main divide of the wilderness between Shields Flat and Anderson Flat.  The incursion was relatively limited.  The status of High Meadow Springs, Shields Flat and Anderson Flat trail camps is unknown.
2.  You can see that Dollar Lake has been overrun by the fire, but it looks as though the fire did not cross the divide.
3.  It looks like Lodgepole and Trail Flats Camps were spared, but it's hard to tell from this map.  Dry Lake Camp doesn't appear to be shown; its status is unknown.
4.  The fire went up toward Fish Creek Saddle and appears to have burned all the way to the saddle.  The status of Fish Creek Saddle trail camp is unknown.  Part of the west face of Lake peak has also burned in a spot fire.  It appears that the summit of Lake Peak did not burn.
5.  A fairly large incursion went over Ten Thousand Foot Ridge and into the drainage of the N Fork of the Whitewater river, but it looks like Mineshaft Flat and Big Tree Camps were not affected.  I think.  It's hard to tell based on this map which is none to clear.


  1. Thank you for this effort, it's much appreciated.

    1. You're welcome. Let's hope they get it fully contained soon.


  2. Jim thanks for your tireless updates and dedication to the community!

  3. hi everyone :)
    are there any hikes requiring/alowing camping? maybe 1 or 2 or 3 day ones .. around LA/Malibu .. or what is the closest place?
    we love nature .. or just a place to camp for the night for free or for a low price .. w3 went to Malibu State Creek Park it was $45 a night :/
    thank you ..