The Rough Fire has been burning in the Sierra National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park, east of Fresno, for six weeks now. It’s burned more than 138,000 acres, the biggest fire in California in — well, in just two years, when the Rim Fire burned more than a quarter-million acres in and adjacent to Yosemite National Park. The Rim Fire is No. 3 on Cal Fire’s list of the state’s biggest wildfires; the Rough Fire is currently No. 16, having moved ahead of last year’s Happy Camp Fire, which is still smoldering in the forests of Siskiyou County.
Among the many maps prepared during the course of a campaign to contain and control a wildfire are progression maps — sort of a historical chart of how a fire has spread over time. Above is the current progression map for the Rough Fire, current through Saturday, September 12 — click the image for a much larger version or download the super large, 10472×8092-pixel version on Inciweb).
What it shows, in a nutshell, is how the fire grew from a modest, lightning-caused incident that grew relatively slowly during the first week to the monster it has become. Weather has helped it gallop through the canyons and ridges near the Kings River, of course. But the common denominator in all our big fires this year is drought: four years of extraordinarily dry conditions have turned California into a landscape that’s even more ready than usual to burn.