This morning Incident Commander Jim Smith cautioned that this would be a critical day on the fire lines. Much was at stake. There were still active hot spots on the southern portion, especially in the North Patterson area; there were no guarantees that they could keep the fire from spreading down into San Jose Creek; and upslope winds promised to push the fire to the edge of West Camino Cielo.
By 5:30pm, as I headed back down the mountain the news was good.
On the crest, while the upslope winds did shift the smoke out of the valley and cause some concern, the engine crews were able to keep the fire from crossing over the crest. “The fire only hit West Camino Cielo in three places,” Dana D’Andrea told assembled fire fighters at the evening briefing, “and we were able to hold all of these.”
While 300-400 acres of unburned fuel still remain along a narrow sliver between Windermere and the Winchester Gun Club, it appears that fire fighters have secured a good portion of West Camino from Highway 154 to the gun club. “It is still day-to-day,” D’Andrea added, “but we’re in a much, much better situation than we were last night.”
Along Cathedral Oaks, D’Andrea stopped short of saying that the entire lower southern section had been contained, but he did say that operations were moving to as mop up stage. “While we aren’t able to get the larger Type 1 engines up onto some of the ranch roads to deal with the last of the hot spots, we are able to get the smaller trucks up there.”
It appears there is optimism that the urban areas could see the mandatory evacuations lifted as early as tomorrow if this progress continues.
Along the eastern edge of the fire line near the Trout Club, the aerial pounding with retardant and water drops continued all day and this enabled several crews to begin establishing hand line along the west rim of San Jose Canyon. If conditions are as favorable tomorrow as today, the crews may be able to tie in to hand lines being added to dozer lines coming down from the Haney Tract.
(Map updated 10:15 pm, July 5)
Remarkably, just two days ago on Thursday night it appeared that both the Haney area and Trout Club would be overrun with fire when sundowner winds kicked in and pushed the 300-foot-high fireball back.
By tomorrow, just 60 hours after residents were preparing themselves to losing their homes for a second time in the Trout Club, there may be room for cautious optimism.
There was also good news in the Rancho Embarcadero area as well on the far western edge of the fire perimeter. For the past several nights homeowners have spent anxious moments as they have watched the fire creep closer and closer to their community.
By late afternoon containment line had been constructed on both side of Tecolote Canyon. “We’ve closed the bottom west end of the fire line,” D’Andrea said. “The Rancho Embarcadero, Winchester, and Ellwood areas are now outside the containment lines.”
In the 12-hour period from morning to evening briefings, total acreage for the Gap Fire increased only 337 acres, consuming just over a half square mile over the entire fire line.
What remains a major concern to fire fighters now is the northwestern portion of the fire where the fire has made moderate uphill runs in Tecolote Canyon. The four dozers assigned to widening the Windy Gap fuel break east of Highway 154 have completed the job, and re-assigned to widening the ridge top fuel break on the rugged western portion of Camino Cielo.
While the incident plan has an objective of keeping the fire east of Dos Pueblos Canyon, D’Andrea also told fire fighters that they are looking at other options on the Gaviota side of Dos Pueblos to stop the fire from continuing to hop canyons as it has Ellwood and Winchester.
Over the next few days this portion of the fire line could cause significant problems but for now, almost exactly 100 hours after the Gap fire began, there is good news.