The U.S. Forest Service is reporting five heat-related injuries on the Cottonwood Fire. Highway 74 is still expected to open at about 8 a.m. Sunday.
Here's some good news. Humidity is now 15 to 25%, temperatures are between 68 and 78 degrees, and the wind is now blowing northwest at 3 to 8 mph with gusts of up to 15 mph.
Resources, besides nearly 700 personnel, now include 34 engines, 20 hand crews, three water tenders, two dozers, four helicopters and two airtankers. 698 personnel.
Highway 74's opening from Borco Road in Valle Vista to Mountain Center has been delayed again until about 8 a.m. Sunday due to another flare-up along the highway, and mop-up crews will be working the area through the night.
The Cottonwood Fire is about 30% contained with full containment expected by 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31. The fire has burned nearly 3,000 acres and is still 4 miles from Hemet. Fire behavior is being described as, "Smoldering with isolated individual bushes torching."
Winds are now blowing in a northeasterly direction at 9 mph with gusts of up to 19 mph. However, the growth potential for this fire has been reduced from high to medium.
Nearly 700 personnel are now assigned to this fire. In addition, resources include 39 engines, 20 hand crews, nine water tenders, two dozers, four helicopters, two airtankers and one Martin Mars Airtanker (7,200-gallon capacity).
The fire's cause has been determined to be power-pole related.
The Cottonwood Fire Incident Command Team will open Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29. That portion of the highway has been closed since Thursday evening when the fire broke out.
The U.S. Forest Service wants you to travel cautiously and carefully from Mountain Center to Hemet.
"Watch your speed closely," they said, but I'm adding "watch the road ahead," too. The reason:
Fire trucks will be crossing Highway 74 and may be working on the roadway.
The Forest Service was very nice to all of us opening Highway 74 24 to 48 hours earlier than initial projections, so please don't be a spoiled sport and ruin it for them. They're doing a great job.
The jazz fest was great, but be careful. With the current deficit we can't afford new fire equipment.
GOOOOOOOOD MOORRNNNNNNNNNING IDYLLWILD and all of you flatlanders thinking about coming to the mountains to hear some truly great jazz.
The sunrise was beautiful this morning. The sky is clear with few clouds and no smoke.
The Cottonwood Fire is still roughly 2,200 acres burned and 10 percent contained, but those are conservative estimates, according to Public Information Officer Marc Peebles. He is with the Integrated management team assigned to destroy, eliminate and whack the Cottonwood Fire.
There was very little activity last night; the fire didn’t spread. But lots of work remains before the “c” word — “controlled” — will modify the Cottonwood Fire.
Crews worked last night, but the actual number of firefighters was lighter than Thursday. Those guys deserved sleep after more than 24 hours battling the fire in heat and ridges. They were up all Thursday night stopping the fire at the North Fork of the San Jacinto River.
Just as important, Peebles noted that it is extremely dangerous work in the steep and rugged terrain running through the lower canyons.
Today, more people and firefighters are arriving. Total personnel on the Hill attacking this fire will be greater than 500 people: 13 crews including Hot Shots, four helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, the Martian MARS (all 7,200 gallons of capacity), 37 engines, dozers and water tenders.
Temperatures will be about the same today — in the 90s at the higher elevations and greater than 100º along the river basin and in the canyon bottoms.
The IC leadership is clearly worried about dehydration on the fire lines. The other concern today is the wind speed will pick up 5 to 10 miles per hour. As several officials said, “This fire has not been wind-tested yet.”
Today, the team will be mopping up along the North Fork and making sure the fire doesn’t breach its eastern boundary. The heavy work will be on the west and north. Establishing strong fire lines will be a major priority during the sunlight hours. (Let’s hope some jazz sounds waft down through the canyons to them.)