About “West Fire 2010”

I just barely had enough time to relax and make dinner after returning from Lassen county when I get the CAL Fire twitter. Kern County Fire was battling a blaze south of Tehachapi and it looked like it was a big one.

The initial report was 400 acres and 30 plus structures lost with 150 structures threatened. I would have time for a quick nap then load up the car and head south. The drive would only take four hours.

I wanted to hit the road at 1 a.m. but I over-slept my alarm and didn’t get up till 5 a.m. (I guess I was more tired from the drive back from Lassen than I realized). I made quick time down I-5 and made it to Incident Command in Tehachapi around 10:30 a.m.

My first drive into the fire zone lead to nothing. The area was all burned out and there was no active front to the fire there. I could see the plume of smoke off in the distance but had no idea how to get to it. Eventually I located a CAL fire recconasance team who showed me which road to take to get around to the area designated as Division E where the active fire was.

Their advice worked well. After a short drive I found the dirt road that led right into the thick of Div. E. There were about for or five air attack helicopters making water drops all over the area in support of several hand crews and dozers making strong progress to stop the eastward progression of the fire.

At first I linked up with a inmate crew that was fortifying a hand line they had cut earlier. The fire started to move across the line they had made and they were forced to move back to the dozer line at the bottom of the hill.

Next I followed the dozer line north around to where I had seen two dozers and a hand crew working along the ridge. I hiked up the side of the hill to where the dozers were about to join up with a lower line they had made earlier. Here I met the Kern County FIre Department Crew 81.

Crew 81 was back-firing off the main dozer line and clearing brush. They eventually cut a hand line down the side of the hill and I went back from where I had come and met them at the bottom on the main dozer line.

Not long after Crew 81 had finished their hand line and started to back-fire the area the main fire came down the hill to meet them. In a matter of minutes the fire jumped the hand line and soon took the whole hill.

As soon as it was safe to we hoofed it outta there. The fire was moving very quickly out of the canyon we were in at that point and they expected it to make a run for the main road. I got my car off of the top of the ridge and moved to to a safe zone. Eventually I decided I had some good pics and returned to basecamp.

I made it back to basecamp just in time for Governator Schwartzenegger’s press confrence. Ehh, all I really wanted was water, air conditioning and a wifi connection so I could send my pics to AP. They eventually passed on my pics (they were similar to what had already been filed) but encouraged me to submit again on the next one.

So Im sitting in the Motel6 in Mojave and will head back to basecamp in about an hour and see how things are progressing. The report this morning is 1400 acres and only 25% containment. There are now 1045 firefighters working the fire. Good luck to all of them they did an amazing job yesterday controlling a difficult and fast moving fire. So far there have been no injuries lets hope it stays that way.


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