California: Basin fire July 5

The Basin complex has burned completely around the community of Big Sur on the east side of the coast highway. From Big Sur it stretches 4 miles north into Andrew Molera State Park and is within 1/10 of a mile from the highway in most of these areas. So far it has not crossed the highway north of Big Sur.

On the south side the fire has been active south of Esalen. Firefighters are still working on the line on the ridge from the North Coast Ridge Trail down to the coast, in the area of Upper Bee campground. The fire is still a few miles away from the Indians fire.

On the east side it has reached Willow Springs campground and is about 1-1/2 miles away from Tassajara.

The electricity in Big Sur is completely out. In spite of the evacuation orders, some residents are remaining at their homes and businesses, not confident that if they evacuated that there would be enough firefighters available to protect their property.

At least one resident started their own backfire. After being warned by a deputy sheriff, Ross Curtis, 48, continued the backfiring and was arrested. Uncoordinated backfires are extremely dangerous for firefighters.

In the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego county, a rogue backfire contributed to the death of fire captain Steve Rucker and injuries to three other members of the Novato Fire Protection District.

During the Jasper fire in 2001 west of Custer, South Dakota, Governor Bill Janklow did not agree with the strategy being implemented by the Type 1 Incident Management Team, and ordered the National Guard to construct dozer lines out ahead of the fire, without coordinating with the Team or the firefighters assigned to the fire.

When he threatened to order backfires be lit, again without any coordination, the Incident Commander had U. S. Marshals staged, ready to make arrests as necessary. The backfires would have been far out ahead of the fire, anchored to nothing. They would have become new, free-burning fires that would have become a nightmare for firefighters and residents. Thankfully, and to the relief of firefighters that would have been endangered by such an irresponsible act, the governor did not give the final order to start the backfires.

The moral of the story is, rogue backfires can endanger or even kill firefighters and others. For a resident to do this, to save some personal property that can be replaced, is reckless, careless, foolish, and stupid.

The fire is 68,712 acres and 5% contained. The map shows the fire perimeter as of late yesterday, Friday. Click on it to see a larger version.

Siege of '87…. and '08

I was being interviewed by a reporter from a newspaper in northern California today about the differences and similarities between the lightning fire Sieges of ’87 and ’08. At the end of the interview the subject of the pin that was given to the ’87 veterans came up, since she had seen a photo of it on Wildfire today.

She called me again later saying that she had talked to another firefighter who told her about a poster that was also given to the ’87 vets and she asked if I had one. I said I was not sure, and that I had not seen it in years, but that I would look for it. She wanted photos of the pin and the poster, if possible.

After a short search, I found the poster, only a little worn and wrinkled. So here they both are. I wonder if something similar will be given to the veterans of the Siege of ’08?

California fires, by the numbers

CalFire put together these stats about the recent lightning-caused fires in California. These numbers are huge.

Statewide Fire Statistics
Total Fires at Peak: 1,781
Total Fires Contained: 1,446
Total Active Fires: 335
Total Acres Burned: 520,831

These numbers are total fires and acres that have occurred from state, local and federal firefighting agencies beginning June 20, 2008. Nearly 80% of the 1,781 total fires have now been contained.

CAL FIRE Statistics
Total Fires at Peak: 1,005
Fires Contained: 801
Active Fires: 57

These numbers are total fires and acres that have occurred ONLY in CAL FIRE jurisdiction since June 20, 2008.
The number of contained and active fires will not equal the total due to some fires merging together.

Statewide Resources Committed
Personnel Committed: 19,925
Fire Engines: 1,570
Hand Crews: 631
Dozers: 327
Water Tenders: 417
Helicopters: 109

What's out there on the web

In the winter Chopper Chick flies helicopters for TV stations and police departments in southern California. She also does “lift jobs”, using a long line to lift objects like air conditioning units to the tops of buildings. But in the summer she flies helicopters on fires. Her blog has some behind the scenes information about what it’s like to fly a Sikorsky 58T over smoke-shrouded, pot-garden-infested, Mendocino County in northern California.

Check out the size of that exhaust pipe just above her head in the picture. And click on the photo to see a larger version.


Firefighter Blog always has good information about the world of wildland fire. Recently he has been covering the Gap fire west of Santa Barbara.

Photo courtesy of Chopper Chick

California: Piute fire update

The Piute fire, south of Lake Isabella and Kernville, made some significant runs in the last 24 hours on the east and northeast side. The fire is 16,626 acres and 18% contained.

The Fire continues to move east towards the Kelso Valley area and slowly down slope on the western perimeter in the Thompson Canyon area. Increased dozer work taking place on the southwest corner is designed to tie old roads together and give firefighters suppression options. Crews continue to hold constructed hand line and dozer line on the southern perimeter to protect the community of Claraville. Approximately 100 firefighters added over a mile of line and conducted burn out operations to strengthen the southern fire line during the night. Steep terrain on the western and northern portions of the fire is hampering efforts. Three strike teams of engines are on stand-by for initial attack over the holiday weekend.

The map below was updated at 9:15 a.m. today, Friday.


The Kern County Fire Department has a great deal of information about the fire.

4th of July parade, Hot Springs, SD

It’s always fun to see the local fire engines in the 4th of July parades.

Wildland engines from the State of South Dakota led the fire truck portion of the parade.

The Hot Springs Fire Department brought out their finest antique apparatus.

It was a hot day and the kids enjoyed being wet down by the remote controlled front-mounted nozzles.

I’ll thank Firegeezer for the idea, but if you have photos of engines, preferably wildland, in your 4th of July parade, send them to me. I’ll try to post a few here. To email me, scroll down to the bottom of the column on the left, to the “About Me” section, and click on “View my complete profile”.