The California Wildfire That Burned Big Sur – Part 10

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   Posted by: BJ Johnson in studio
This entry is part of a series: Spherical Magic & The Basin Complex Wildfire »

Spherical Magic & The Basin Complex Wildfire – Days 30-32

7/20/08, 10:55 AM

The 6" closed loop enhancement to the floor-standing air conditioner made a significant difference. No more partial negative pressure in the building due to running it. Any house leaks enough as it is without encouraging the flow from outside by forcibly expelling air, hot or otherwise. The fire in my nose is now extinguished, as long as I continue to wear my respirator when outside. We have to run the unit at night, as the local wind shifts to the south, bringing thick smoke all around us. Can't see our own trees. If we don't cool the studio down at night the unit cannot keep pace with the daytime temperature rise. Usually, the Japanese doors and studio windows and skylights are open all night and the air flow expels the heat. In the morning, we close it all up, trapping the cool. With the thick smoke, this is not possible.

7/21/2008

The fire has now been burning for a month. The Indians Fire farther to the SE for way longer than that. Although it is now 100% contained, the Basin Complex has joined with Indians, making the entire area over 233,000 total acres burned to-date.

Nothing Going On
7/21 You'd almost think that nothing unusual was going on.

A Good Day to make preparations...

A new Incident Commander took over today and she is kicking butt and taking names. She's made a remarkable difference and I wish we'd had the benefit of her command at the get go. Things would be a lot different now. Might have made the difference in us not spending money we don't have to put this system in to save ourselves.

This evening, we watched the greatest air power display seen in the month that this fire has been going. Three Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) equipped C-130 tankers, a radial engine bomber and a twin turboprop light spotter aircraft from the 302nd Airlift Wing dropping retardant right out in front of us, five helicopters doing the same at isolated locations farther away and a Sky Crane doing follow-up at the C-130/bomber drop points to close any breaks that the fire might leap through.

The tankers are brought on line.

BomberBomber
C-130C-130
Two of a fleet of nine: a radial engine bomber and a C-130 turboprop.

C-130 DropC-130 Drop
C-130 DropC-130 Drop
Led by a twin engine light spotter plane, the C-130 is shown where to make the drop with a lay-down of smoke. The C-130 nails it.

Bomber DropBomber DropBomber Drop
While the C-130 returns to base for a fill, the spotter joins up with the bomber and leads it in; diving into the canyon out of sight. Exiting the canyon, the bomber breaks off and returns to base while the spotter makes a few runs to decide where the C-130 will make its next drop.

Sky Crane DropSky Crane DropSky Crane Drop
Sky Crane DropSky Crane DropSky Crane Drop
The Sky Crane is now fitted with a retardant drop tank. The spotter shows the Crane pilot where to drop but doesn't need to lead it in.

These ops go on for a number of hours as they pre-treat the dozer line for what comes ...next.

Calm Before The Fire Storm
The Sun begins to set and the marine layer advances up the valleys,
ending air ops for the day. 20 minutes later, the whole area was
shrouded in cloud at our eye level. Stuff around here changes quickly.

The fire, however, is relentless and, over time, largely unchanging.
It has now been burning for a month and, in just this one section, has consumed 143,000+ acres.

More took place out there in two hours than has gone on, combined, since it started! Up to this point, the tankers have been sitting on standby. Why, nobody knows... Well, *one* guy does. After the previous IC dragging his feet and blowing a lot of smoke of his own, all the while trying to let the fire get as big as possible to make a name for himself, this is a very welcome change.

Another interesting and welcome change is that the daily party caravan of trucks coming up here and leaving at 5:00 have suddenly and completely stopped!

7/22/2008

Heavy smoke all night again. Once the prevailing winds took over about mid-morning, a really scary Op was put into motion. A back burn firing was begun on Blue Rock Ridge along two miles of dozer lines, right out in front of us, to turn the fire away and into the interior. YIKES! Check out the imagery of this and how it went down. Air support was outstanding. Sky Cranes, Chinooks and Sikorskys carrying buckets and tanks kept slop-overs from getting started. Once the burn was complete, the plume settled down and you could sense that the front was moving away toward the interior, as planned. This is only half of the exposed dozer lines that we have to be concerned with, however. The Ops on Chews Ridge down to the reservoir from the other side will begin tomorrow if conditions are right. It's a long ways, so it will take a number of days to complete.

Nothing Going On
7/22 Back burn operations along the pre-treated dozer line down to the reservoir begins. We've got front row seats but everyone here is on their feet!

HeliTorch
The HeliTorch, an airborne flame thrower used to assist back-burning operations.
HeliTorch BurnHeliTorch Burn
HeliTorch BurnHeliTorch Burn
HeliTorch BurnHeliTorch Burn
HeliTorch BurnHeliTorch Burn
HeliTorch BurnHeliTorch Burn
Once the ground crews get a back fire going along a dozer line, the HeliTorch goes in and paints a swath of fire between the backfire and the advancing front. This creates a local weather pattern by strong convection that pulls the back fire and the front toward each other and away from the dozer line and crews.

The Sky Crane is the HeliTorch opposite.
Sky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water Drop
Sky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water Drop
Sky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water DropSky Crane Water Drop
To control it, now fitted with a water tank, the Sky Crane
drops on areas outside the dozer lines where the fire may ignite
from airborne brands or radiant heat; creating a "Slop-over"
that would be extremely difficult to control.

Blue Rock Ridge Burn
Back burn now in full force and successfully heading down the dozer line to the reservoir.




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