Wednesday, October 4, 2023

[UPDATE 6:32p.m.: Forward Progress Stopped] Large Fire Burning Just South of Willits


A wildfire in the area of Highway 101 on the south end of the Willits Bypass has swelled to 15 acres and is currently growing at a moderate rate of spread. Reportedly structures and water sources for Willits are threatened by the Walker Fire as it is called [after it started just before 4 p.m.]

“Over 15 acres and wind,” said one first responder over the scanner.

The fire burning by Hwy 101 [Photo credit to Eric Burch]

There has been a request for an evacuation warning to the Pine Mountain division of Ridgewood.

At least one lane of Hwy 101 is going to be closed. Please be alert for more impacts.

“The fire is pushing towards Tomki Road,” one responder said over the scanner.

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[Screenshot from FlightRadar shows the area of the Walker Fire]
[Screenshot from FlightRadar shows the area of the Walker Fire]

UPDATE 4:35 p.m.: According to the scanner, one firefighter has been injured near the water treatment plant.

UPDATE 4:42 p.m.: According to the CHP Traffic Incident Information Page, southbound Ridgewood Road is being closed and Hwy 101’s #2 northbound lane is being closed.

UPDATE 4:51 p.m.: Caltrans is being asked to do a hard closure from the scales to the Willits Offramp. 

UPDATE 4:53 p.m.: The Incident Commander requested more resources.

UPDATE 4:53 p.m.: The Incident Commander requested more resources.

Smoke rising from the Walker Fire.
Smoke rising from the Walker Fire near Hwy 101. [Photo from Matt LaFever]

UPDATE 4:58 p.m.: According to a Nixle alert sent out by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, “Evacuation Warning: Wildfire in the WILLITS area, CORRECTED LOCATION IS PINE MOUNTAIN AND RIDGEWOOD RD SUB DIVISIONS, Be ready to evacuate at any moment, gather your belongings, check on your neighbors and leave early if possible. Please avoid the area, Emergency crews need access, DO NOT BLOCK THE ROAD. Only call 9 1 1 for emergencies. We will publish more information including evacuation zone maps and social media updates to mendoready.org as more information becomes available.”

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Photos from Matt LaFever at the scene shows multiple fire resources at the scene.

[Photo by Matt LaFever]

UPDATE 5:04 p.m.: Caltrans is still showing just one northbound lane closed on Hwy 101. Cal Fire reports the fire is now 20 acres.

Fire burned to the edge of Hwy 101. [Photo by Caltrans]
Fire burned to the edge of Hwy 101. [Photo by Caltrans]

UPDATE 5:32 p.m.: Cal Fire MEU reports, “The Walker Fire, burning near Willits, CA, east of Highway 101, is approximately 25 acres in size with a moderate rate of spread and structures threatened.”

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UPDATE 5:42 p.m.: The air attack crew reports the fire is now being estimated at 100 acres due to better mapping. Forward progress has slowed, they said.

UPDATE 6:08 p.m.: Cal Fire MEU tweeted that the Walker Fire  is approximately a”100 acre fire [moving at a] moderate rate of spread, burning in the timber and mixed vegetation with structures threatened.” A full wildland fire dispatch was sent to the scene.

UPDATE 6:12 p.m.: According to the Incident Commander speaking over the scanner, one tanker fully loaded with retardant is being released from the incident. 

UPDATE 6:32 p.m.: The Incident Commander reports that forward progress has been stopped. Hose line is around the fire. The fire is reported to be 109 acres. Crews will be working on the fire for some time.

UPDATE 9:08 p.m.: The Mendocino Sheriff downgraded the evacuation warning for the Pine Mountain area to a Situational Awareness.

Please remember that this story is unfolding. Information is being reported as we gather it. However, some of the information coming from witnesses and initial official reports could be wrong. We will do our best to get the facts but, in the case that something is inaccurate, we will update with correct information as soon as we can.

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  1. I’m very interested to hear the cause of the fire. I drove by just as it started and called it in, multiple small fires burning along the shoulder. Some spread out further than you would think.

    • Unconfirmed rumors suggested someone was dragging chains. Whatever the cause, sheriffs deputies were out in force both at the scene and away from it.

  2. Thank you to all of the firefighters and first responders for the great work you do for us. In my opinion, our community is fortunate and blessed to have the best in the area.
    God bless all of you.

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