Evening report for March 28, 2008 from Mary and Gabe, Deputy District Ranger and District Ranger.
A clean up day, 25 acres treated, phase I complete. The perimeter of units 4 & 5 now have prescribed, black line encasing them.
The objectives today were to:
1) Bring fire down the southwest flank of unit 4 to road 3N06 (Stockton Flats Road).
2) Use fire for greater depth on the southwest border of unit 5. This is the section closest to Lytle Creek.
The relative humidity (Rh) remained high all day, high 30 to mid 50’s. I believe the Rh was above 60 when we arrived on unit 5 and never dropped below 50. Winds were calm ranging from 2-8mph and from the SW, marine influenced.
Closing fire line down to 3N06 was some tough work. If you recall in yesterday’s report, crews worked down the hand line on the left flank. Where we ended operations was where we could safely get water down to. As crews progressed down this flank, they plumbed fire hose. The main line going down this flank was so long, it took approximately 1000 gallons of water just to fill. At over 7lbs/gallon, we risked failure of the mainline if we continued.
Crews today had to begin a new hose lay from the bottom up to tie in where we ended yesterday’s operations. Imagine carrying all your fire gear, a tool and a 45lb pack of hose up this terrain. Ken and I quipped, how nice it was to no longer be on a crew. 45lbs of hose will only get you so far; go back down for another 45. Yup, we are happy to no longer be on a crew.
The upper end of unit 4 went well, just slow because of the terrain. Leadership on this north end consisted of the firing boss Randy Unkovich his trainee Lauren Blake, (Fuels 3). Lauren is a recent addition to the Ranger District. She and Henry Herrera (Forester 3-1) have presented at both Wrightwood and Lytle Creek Firesafe Councils.
The workforce, or should I say work horses, on unit 4 included Forest Service’s Del Rosa Crew, CalFire Crews and San Bernardino NF engine crews.
Unit 5 was a different challenge, more technical again. We wanted to create greater depth on the fuel break adjacent to Lytle Creek. This area is lower in elevation and has a higher component of chamise. With this in mind, prep work was made by unit 5’s firing boss, Frank Esposito, Captain 4-1 of the Mill Creek Hotshots. He put his hand crews to work, chunking up the landscape in burning blocks by establishing fuelbreaks across the slope. Once completed, he used a portion of his crew to lay fire first at the upper break and then at the toe of the slope. We hoped to generate enough heat to run to the edge of Wednesday’s work, consuming vegetation to prescription. With such high Rh’s and in a canyon sheltered by wind, we could not establish good runs. We did punch holes in the fuel bed. When we heli-torch, these holes will dissipate heat moving up slope.
For additional security, a second tactic was implemented. Captain 4-1 deployed his resources to establish fuel breaks on the SW aspect for a second burnout operation. This was the slope that burned well on Wednesday. This is where the smoke column initially flowed east, hit a mid stratum, creating a vertical smoke column then, capped and dispersed westerly. Frank was able to generate some heat for short finger runs.
The combination of tactics will provide the results desired. Throughout the day, fire crawled up both slopes, punching holes on the eastern aspect and fingers on the west facing slope. We expect slow, ground crawls to continue throughout the night,
Personnel on unit 5 included Los Angeles Conservation Corp, the Mill Creek Crew and various San Bernardino engine crews. At the bottom of the hill were an Engine and water tender off of the San Jacinto Ranger District. At the top of this operation was an engine a crew from the city of Redlands
For an additional measure of security at the bottom of unit 5, Henry and I walked out to the upper cabins of Lytle Creek with overhead from the LACC crew. We will be sending this crew out next week to chip all the cut material from the lower fuel break. They will also thin and chip the chaparral vegetation upslope from the cabins, feathering in a fuel break reaching up to 100 feet above the upper cabins.
So, where was the holding boss? I believe he walked back and forth between both operations. Not sure if this is true but he kept in contact with both operations throughout the day. The only time the IC and I saw him was at the briefing and at the end of the day.
BDF engine 31 will be on site all night to monitor heat. For tomorrow, we will send out 2 Forest engines and the Del Rosa crew to monitor and cool down hot spots. There should not be much work on Saturday as the weather projections are showing higher probabilities for moisture in the coming days. Precipitation potential has been pushed up to Saturday evening. We are looking at a colder storm Tuesday and Wednesday.
If the latter storm does materialize, helicopter operations will be on hold for at least one week and more than likely, two weeks. If the vegetation breaks bud in this period, helicopter operations will not occur until late April, early May.
When a chaparral system breaks bud, or begin to grow, fuel moisture will shoot up. We will have to wait out this growth spurt to a point where fuel moisture come back into prescription. This growth process will not prevent heli-torch operations before fire season. In 2006, we waited out the growth spurt and burned in May, just before June gloom.
If these storms do not provide the precipitation predicted, we could be heli-torching as early as Thursday April 3.
We will keep everyone posted.
An observation on safety. I can accept bumps, bruises, bee stings, etc as a part of the job. I can not accept people being hit by cars. We set up traffic cones, slow down signs, vehicles with flashing lights where we had concentrations of crews. Locals crawled through these areas, stopped to talk and take a picture or two. Visitors apparently had somewhere to be on a dead end road. We even put up stop signs as you entered one area where we had equipment and staff in concentration. NO EFFECT. To ameliorate, we stopped each car entering the lower site and waved them through one at a time to maintain a safe speed. WHY?
In the end, no one hurt this week, everyone is tired, and everyone smiled. It was a good week.
Night all, keep posting, we’ll be talking soon!
Gabe and Mary – Front Country Ranger District