Large view of the current fire area located about 3 miles north of Gibraltar Reservoir. The fire is moving northeast on a path that will take it away from Santa Barbara.
Zaca Incident Commanders Cautiously Optimistic
Paradise Residents Will Be Allowed To Go Home
Sunday, August 12, 2007
At the 12:30 pm news conference held today, Zaca Incident Commanders expressed a cautious optimism that they had turned the corner on the southern flank of the fire. Forty days after the fire began, and after a week in which Santa Barbara residents feared the worst, the leading edge of the fire appears to be turning northeast and into the wilderness.
Much of the credit for this is due to the tireless efforts of the hundreds of fire fighters out on the front line doing the hard work. But credit must also go to the long range planning initiated by the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) from Boise, currently implemented by the two Type 1 Teams brought in last week.
The effort has not been easy. For the past week, using air attack to protect their backs, fire fighters have used direct line construction and burn out operations to build five miles of containment line from the Peachtree area to Little Pine Mountain.
“This has been a tough five miles,” Mark Schmitt, the county representative on the Incident Management Team explained. “At one point, to finish off the last section on the east side of Little Pine Mountain, we needed to move a crew in place where the only way into the area was by rappelling down fixed ropes from helicopters.
By Ray Ford
Telephoto view of the last portion of Little Pine Mountain to be contained, where Hot Shots needed to be helicoptered in and lowered by rope to get in to the work area. Note the steepness of the dozer line built down the cliffs.
“It was steep country with lots of bluffs, and the only way the crews could get in was by dropping down from the air. We put a line around 95% of the area yesterday and will finish it up today.”
Having contained this section and widened the route down Camuesa Canyon to Indian Creek, Schmitt was very optimistic the back firing planned for Monday could be put on hold. If this is possible it will reduce the final size of the planned back burns quite a bit.
Schmitt continued, “We’re looking at turning the fire along the Don Victor Jeepway. If we can hold this line and move the fire north we may be able to avoid burning out the Mono and Agua Caliente drainages. We’ll know in the next two or three days if we were successful.
By Ray Ford
DC-10 lays down a long strip of retardant fire fighters hope will buy enough time to build containment lines along the fire’s edge. This slope threatens to carry the fire down into Pie Canyon.
“We’ll use every opportunity to go direct where we can, one foot in the black, one foot on the road. But we need to cool the fire down — and air attack will help us accomplish that.”
Just moments before the conference began, Schmitt announced the DC-10 had made its first drop along the Jeepway and they were hopeful the road could be held. “We’re always playing a game of ‘what ifs,’” he said. “Once we started turning the fire we started asking ourselves, what if we can hold this Jeepway? It would avoid having to burn out quite a bit of territory, possibly as much as 60,000 acres.”
“One of the reasons we could take this opportunity,” Bill Molumby, the other Incident Commander for the Live Oak Team added, “is that we had the plans in place and had done the work needed to establish our primary containment. This made us comfortable that we had the fall back lines in place if things didn’t work out.”
One benefit of this turn of events is that the Paradise Evacuation order was lifted late Sunday and residents will be allowed to return home.
By Ray Ford
Air attack drops retardant near intersection of Indian and Buckhorn canyons to slow the fire’s downstream progress. The upper canyon in view is almost all burned out. Behind this in the Narrows area there was a massive firestorm in progress.
Dietrich expects this will take 3-4 days to accomplish and includes everything in the upper Sisquoc drainage east of the South Fork, including the Condor Sanctuary, an area in excess of 30,000 acres. This isn’t something he takes lightly. “We’ve done everything else we can at this point,” he explained. “We just can’t let it continue down river.”
Once the Sisquoc back firing has been accomplished the plan is to turn east and continue building a black line around the main fire perimeter, which is moving both north and south. “The most difficult section we’ll have is the set of switchbacks on Highway 33 north of Pine Mountain,” Dietrich added.
Massive plumes build in the upper Indian and Alamar drainages. On the right middle side of the picture, the lower plume is burning down into Pie Canyon.