Thursday, December 7, 2023

Highway 101 Still Closed as Willits’s Oak Fire Continues to Burn

The Oak Fire in the afternoon of Monday 9/7/2020 [Photograph taken by Willits Resident Suzy Christensen]

The Oak Fire’s rapid growth slowed overnight as expected winds didn’t materialize but more are predicted later today. However, Caltrans reports that 101 is still closed this morning.

At 7:05 a.m., they updated their Facebook page. “U.S. Highway 101 remains closed just north of Willits in Mendocino County,” the statement said. “The closure extends from the North Willits on-ramp to Highway 101’s intersection with State Route 162 at Longvale. No estimated time for reopening. We will provide updates as they become available.”

According to Senator Mike McGuire at 6:56 a.m., “[We had a] Pretty good night for the #OakFire. Big help: The worst case wind scenario didn’t materialize. Firefighters held the blaze from moving significantly south towards Willits/Brooktrails. A ton of work ahead, situation remains dangerous. Winds expected to pick up later today.”


  • Evacuation map
  • Evacuation centers at both the Willits High School and Baechtel Grove Middle School located at 1150 Magnolia Street in Willits.
  • Animal assistance for evacuees behind the Willits High School or call Sarah at 272-2299 if you need help finding a place for your animals.
  • Route around the closure. Roads are crooked and narrow. Please no vehicle over 40 feet.

Thanks to Kym Kemp’s Redheaded Blackbelt for letting MendoFever use this piece.

UPDATE: 8:30 am

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Cal Fire Mendocino tweeted that the fire is 863 acres and 5% contained. According to the Northern California Geographic Coodination Center, “[There is a] continued threat to structures with evacuation orders in place. Hwy 101 closed.” They also say that North Bay Type III IMT assigned to lead the fire.

UPDATE: 11:19 pm

Sheriff Kendall sent us this picture of the low visibility caused by an inversion layer. He said this was taken on Highway 101 near the staging area at the old Apache Mill

Sheriff Matt Kendall told us due to an inversion layer, smoke is thick diminishing visibility to approximately 1000 feet. The low visibility means “we are not going to be able to get any aircraft in here” but he reassured that the inversion layer is successfully slowing the fire.

UPDATE 1:14 pm

The following is a statement issued by the Willits City Manager regarding the Oak Fire:

As you know, it was a tense night as we were prepared for a wind event that could have potentially pushed the fire into Brooktrails. This did not happen and the fire did not progress south. The fire is at about 800 acres, as of this morning and it is 4.5 miles N. of Willits, just outside Brooktrails, near 1st gate. We are looking at the wind potentially shifting away from Brooktrails and towards 101. This wind pattern will hopefully continue. There is no PSPS planned for Mendocino County. There are 4,375 people under an evacuation order and 2275 under a warning, which includes the west side of Willits. Our Emergency Operations Center is open and we are coordinating with the County, CalFire, and the Sheriff’s office. Conditions can change rapidly, so we are trying to inform people as quickly as we can. Our crews worked really hard last night to help evacuate Brooktrails – Thank you to our wonderful Sheriff’s Office, Police Department and to the Police Departments of Ukiah and Fort Bragg who assisted the Sheriff’s office to evacuate people safely. Thank you to our Public Works crews who are working the road blocks. Proud of our staff, many of whom are dealing with their own evacuations, while helping everyone else stay safe. Note: There is an information number for the County on this incident. It is 234-6052.

Route around the Hwy 101 closure
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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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