Fire On Highway 666

“SANTA MARIA Firefighters made progress in battling a wildfire that grew to 12,000 acres but stopped short of reaching a critical ridgeline in Los Padres National Forest on Tuesday night.

More than 640 firefighters contained about 20 percent of the Perkins Fire, which burned south through chaparral and away from the small town of New Cuyama about 45 miles east of Santa Maria. No homes were threatened.

Afternoon temperatures in the 90s, low humidity and heavy brushes fueled the fire, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Pasinato… “ more here

The Perkins Fire by acreage is much larger than the Oak Creek Fire near Sedona but you would never know it. The glamour factor between the two fires are…well, opposite. I fought fire in the general area of the Perkins Fire. New Cayuma is as -middle of nowhere- as you can get in California look here.

If someone can nominate a more hellish place to spend time fighting fire I’ll debate, there is no competition. When the weather reports say 90 degrees just add 10 to 15 degrees to that and you are closer to the truth. Those protected canyons and south facing ridges enjoy their own micro-climates. I once heard that is where the term “devil winds” was introduced.

Most of the personnel responding to the Perkins incident headed East on Highway 166 off Highway 101 on the San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara County line. Highway 166 in my mind is Highway 666 and will always be so. Nothing good (for a firefighter) can come from a journey that begins on that road. Maybe my feelings are exaggerated because 4 firefighters from my old station died fighting the Spanish Ranch Fire in 1979 on that road.

The incident that claimed those young men is part of the curriculum at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire Academy. The crew was caught in a re-burn, essentially they were caught in an area of the fire that had burned earlier in the day. That incident review caught my attention because of lives lost, the lesson about re-burn and because the instructors encouraged everyone in the class to view the photos of the bodies. The Spanish Ranch Fire tragedy ultimately led to broad adoption of fire shelters.

Highway 666. 640 of the world’s best firemen and women are somewhere down that road today and by all accounts kicked some serious butt overnight. There are no motels, hotels or resorts for lodging, no this fire is old school, sleep on the ground, 24 hour shifts and eating MRE’s until they bring in the kitchen crew. Forget showering and don’t even think about finding a creek or lake to jump into for a bath, a running creek in June in New Cayuma would be considered a water park.

Contrast this with the guys and gals working the Brins Fire outside Sedona. Choice of motels and resorts, numerous quality restaurants in Sedona. National and local TV coverage that glamorous Sedona invites in addition to a reporter from every newspaper in Arizona as well as some bloggers chronicling the incident guaranteeing that fire’s place in history.

Let’s check the news coverage from both fires;

Heaven Sedona/Oak Creek Fire news
Hell Perkins Fire

Categories: ,