Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cottonwood Fire Day 4

Base Camp this morning.

A car driving west on Highway 74 and no road block, about 6:45 a..m. Sunday, Aug. 30.

10:30 p.m.
The Cottonwood Fire is now 95% contained.

Fire behavior is described as "smoldering in heavy fuels in steep and rocky terrain, coupled with high temperatures and low humidity. The fire is burning in 13-year-old chaparral with a significant dead component. Tomorrow the predicted temperatures are to be slightly lower and relative humidity higher

8 a.m.
GOOOOOOOOD MOORRNNNNNNNNNING IDYLLWILD and the rest of the world below our alpine hamlet.

The sunrise was beautiful this morning. The sky is clear with no clouds and no smoke. We do have plenty of cattle.

HIGHWAY 74 is OPEN. In case you have doubts, see the photo.

The Cottonwood Fire has been limited to 2,409 acres burned and SoCal Team III has achieved 75 percent containment. Full containment is expected tomorrow, Aug. 31, according to Public Information Officer Marc Peebles. He is with the integrated management team assigned to the Cottonwood Fire.

An important thing to remember: Containment means how much line is around the fire; controlled means how much of the fire is actually out.

However, that statement is quickly changing. Team III is already planning a significant demobilization beginning today. The unified command with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is ending today.

Drivers, as you use Highway 74 to Hemet, please be cautious of fire vehicles. The Cottonwood Fire is not controlled. Some of Team III's biggest concern is the area along the San Jacinto River bottom and preventing the fire from jumping the highway and heading south.

Today’s work will concentrate on mopping up areas and, more importantly, holding the fire lines to prevent any expansion of the fire.

The Station Fire in Los Angeles County is more than 20,000 acres, but according to Incident Meteorologist Rob Balfour, similar weather conditions were experienced here as on the Station Fire.

The initial attack on the Cottonwood did a lot to help prevent further spread.

But the competition for firefighting resources in Southern California is intensifying. Yesterday, Incident Commander Mike Wakoski had four fixed wing aircraft supporting his ground troops. Today, he has no fixed winged and only two helicopters.

Firefighters from Colorado, New Mexico and even Virginia have been shipped to Southern California to help with firefighting. As Waskoski said this morning,
Southern California is in a fire siege now and fire season has begun.

Temperatures will be lower today, according to Balfour. Instead of 110º, firefighters will enjoy a balmy 102º in the lower areas and only 92º at higher elevations. But up canyon, winds could reach 20 to 25 mph.

The cost of suppressing and stopping the Cottonwood Fire has reached $1.5 million already.

Yesterday’s flare-up, which delayed the Highway 74 opening, was a 15-acre island of vegetation burning. This was very old vegetation.

“This is steep terrain and it takes a while for hand crews to do the work to establish the fire lines,” said Peebles.

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