Donnell Fire Briefing at Word of Life Church, August 13, 2018, 5 p.m.

Following are my notes from last night’s briefing and Q&A session at the Word of Life Church.  There were several hundred citizens in attendance.

Please bear in mind that these notes were written as speakers were…….speaking.  And please remember that I’m not a trained reporter.

This map was on a screen in the front of the room:




AUGUST 13, 2018

Donnell fire has been very challenging.

  • So many resources have come together to work as a team
  • fire still very dangerous although there is no smoke today
  • overwhelming community support despite loss of structures
  • Sally and Frank Helm at Dodge Ridge have been so hospitable
  • Panel of speakers:  Sarah Laplante, Jason Keikon, Lee Rickard,  Jim Harris, Rob ?, David Gonsalves, Bill Pooley
  • Jim Harris
    • 150K gallons of fire retardant used to date
    • Eagle Meadow area: good containment
    • heading north using rock as a barrier
    • 4 divisions in Div A & B

Sheriff Bill Pooley

  • responsible for all notifications and repopulation, evacuations
  • mandatory evacuations still in place
  • hard closures at Eagle Meadows and the Pass – i.e. roadblocks
  • take time on roadways – be safe
  • 5 major area of concern
    • trees and snags
    • haz mat in old homes
    • septic tanks with redwood tops
    • traffic safety
    • security of homes that have been destroyed or saved
  • Goal is on how to get roads open
    • folks are losing money daily, i.e. Kennedy Meadows

HWY 108 

  • Jason Kreiton , forest supervisor, originally from WA state 
    • is aware of businesses and recreation that are impacted
    • checking daily to see what areas can be reopened and when
    • Pacific Crest Trail still closed
  • CHP
    • it’s all about safely
    • debris still on road
    • roads won’t be open until there’s no danger of fire anymore
    • had been working in Redding before Donnell
  • Jim Harris – hazard trees
    • arduous work = mop up, clearing snags, Brightman , Dardenellss, Wagner Flat
    • falling trees
    • stump holes present problems
    • boulders and rocks roll down hills without vegetation to stop them 
    • probably 2-3 more weeks
    • have just about enough resources on hand
    • fallers have been brought in around cabin areas
      • first cleaned up are along travel routes
      • then trees around cabins which will allow other officials to come in and make those areas safe 
  • Sarah LaPlante, Mi Wok and Summit Ranger
    • has personally called over 100 cabin owners
    • 53 lost 
    • plus Dardanelles resort
    • what do we do now???
      • don’t know
      • will work with each cabin owner to rebuild each cabin
      • working with OES to determine what that means
      • immediately focus is on safely
        • fall hazard trees and materials
        • propane tanks
        • septic tanks

David Gonsalves

  • working together as a team
  • trying to figure out how to proceed with recovery process

Robert Kosivic – Director of Tuol Co. environmental health

  • got us through Rim Fire
  • hazmat teams sent out to each facility/site
  • household hazardous waste
  • propane/septic
  • oils
  • batteries
  • safety of workers and staff is priority

Josh White, Tuolumne County Fire Chief, Cal Fire Battalion Chief

  • went right to work with Incident Commander
  • 5No1 road is pretty good right now

 Lee Rickard – Incident Commander

  • Team = 58 individuals more or less
  • fire fighting history:hot shot and smoke jumper (18 years)
  • smoke jumper – 2003 –
    • san diego, div. supervisor on Cedar Fire
  • very proud and blessed to have his job
  • we will have smoke in air until snow is on the ground
  • 108 corridor possibly open to controlled traffic in about 7 days
  • regular access to communities – 4-5 weeks until it is safe from a fire perspective.


  • Joe Difillipo
    • camping here for years ….
    • seems as if this fire burned on for a while rather than being extinguished when small
    • why is there less media coverage on this fire than Ferguson?
    • ANSWER:  intent is to put fire out a.s.a.p.  
      • see smoke, closest resource will respond.
      • trying to control info that shouldn’t be released before individuals are notified,
      • stretched for resources nationally.
      • Jason Keiker – 
        • matter of staffing
        • couldn’t fly right away due to smoke from Ferguson
        • conditions are such that staff cannot be put out into steep rugged country
        • Ferguson Fire grew exponentional within first day.
          • strong winds
          • hear about those fires that escape initial hit for suppression. 

Gary Jones – Sierra Village

  • Quartz Way, end of SV……….
  • dead trees on adjacent property without penalty.
  • Josh White – Ordinance 4291 only gives right to go on private properties.
    • need to work towards fuel breaks – get grants

Mr. Haack:   Fires need to be hit immediately.  Controlled burn signs posted at Donnell for several days.  How was fire started?  In 24 hours, wherever a fire is, it’s out of control.  Need to start fire lines.  Twice as wide as tallest trees in area.  Need fire breaks in forest – proactively, not reactively.

Response (Lee Richard):  When conditions are wrong it makes no difference how much preparation has been done.

  • do need fuel breaks
  • need to take better care of our forests.
  • doesn’t make policy about trails etc
  • need funds to hire staff to do projects to protect communities
  • Upcoming generation of kids are lazy!  Where will future fire fighter come from?

Fire Safe Council is where the money is in our communities

  • need grants written to get work done in our communities

Kurt Anderson, Long Barn, East Douglas (no structures lost)  Local hot shots saved that area.  Log it or graze it or watch it burn.    Forests are too tight.

Jason, USFS response: increased timber sales.

– fire safe communities

  • Jason – firefighting itself. 
    • new vegetation program starting in Stanislaus Forest.   

Jan (audience):  Hwy 108 corridor open in 7 days…..but cabin owner not able to go in for 3-5 wks.  How are the cabins going to be protected from burglary?

Environmental health – need to go into each cabin before residents can re-enter.

Kathy Bailey – from Tuolumne plus uphill cabin owner.  How will cabin owners be notified?

  • by phone or other wise…..still not known.

5N01 open to property owners?  Doesn’t have impacts as on hwy 108.  Still fighting fires in area.  Won’t be immediate.  Guessing – 2 wks more or less.

Sonora Pass……when open?  controlled traffic along 108.  

Be prepared for physical changes on 108…….?  What are they?  

This IC (incident command) team leaves on Saturday.  Forest will have another team come in.  Will be something going on until it snows.

Hwy 108 will look different!  Trees down, burn areas.


That’s it folks.  I hope these notes are somewhat helpful.  Talk was rapid and constant.  Names weren’t always clear and there was no ‘back button’ to repeat a comment.

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