My Thoughts On The Day Fire

The Day Fire has been burning since September 4th, cost $53 million and consumed 160,000 acres to date. OK guys it’s time to put it out! Some of these fire crews have been on the line for more than 3 weeks and the longer they are there the greater chance someone will make a fatigue caused error that could lead to a disabling injury or fatality.

When I first read about this fire I figured it was typical slam dunk Los Padres affair where everyone goes home after a few days, clean up and get ready for the next fire! Then I read it was in “Wilderness“.

I learned about “wilderness” fires from my cousin Mark who worked the Marble-Cone Fire in the Santa Lucia Range near Big Sur in 1977.
His crew was one of the first to arrive at the fire and as they prepared to deploy they were told to put away the chain saws.
Bulldozers or any other mechanical tools were not allowed on fires in “wilderness” designated areas. As a result a fire that could have been put down in a day or two went on to burn over 230,000 acres of pristine forest. I recall my cousin telling me how close they were to getting a handle on the fire in its early stages and if the dozers had been allowed in it would have confined to a couple of hundred acres! I never forgot his reaction and since then I have come to some personal conclusions about fire management in “wilderness” designated areas.

Now to the Day Fire. When I heard it was burning in “wilderness” I said to myself this was going to be a big one, I saw this coming, a built in reason for the Forest Service to pad the 2007 budget and give the Southern Region guys a fat overtime campaign. Yeah I said it, padding the budget.

I believe the command team looked at the map early on and saw no urban interface issues and determined they would stand back. Forest Service is famous for indirect firefighting and here they saw no immediate threat to any communities until it reached the coast some 30 miles to the West.
The fire has affected some outlaying ranches and cabins. One report I read this morning said fire crews protected over 700 such dwellings in the last 24 hours. The fire is approaching coastal communities and it’s a now a beast, a beast that should have been exterminated in its infancy.

As I said earlier it’s time to fight this fire. Where is that DC 10 air tanker we saw over the fire on TV over the weekend? $20,000 per hour to contract this tanker is not a lot of money when you have tired firefighters on the line for this long. Bring back that DC 10 and call over to Evergreen in Arizona and contract with that 747 air tanker outfit. Maybe they won’t call them in because those weapons are too effective? These tools could have the effect of being true budget killers and that would be bad for business. a cynical view but one I hold.
I might even recommend replacing this incident command team with some fresh minds.

I’ll post this disclaimer, I was trained by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the stated policies of my department was to aggressively fight fire. That’s the point isn’t it?

Update: I receive a very timely comment from Firebomber Publications, an outfit I had never heard of before they commented on my post. I guess I’m not the only one who wonders out loud why the DC 10 and 747 air tankers are sidelined when they are so badly needed.

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