Tuesday Sand Fire Update: Sand Sweep-up in Progress - 80% Contained
PLACERVILLE CA (PR Pond) After days of hard work and cooperative weather the firefighters have gained the upper hand in the Sand fire which is 80% contained on the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes river outside of the isolated community of Outingdale. Most evacuation orders have been changed to "warnings" or eliminated altogether. Although the fire is still dangerous, it has been contained within a parameter for sometime and is burning areas within that parameter.
The fire that started Friday was found to have been caused by the hot exhaust of a vehicle driven into dry grasses by someone purported to have been, "Going to see a friend at the river." That was just east of highway 49 at the county lines of Amador and El Dorado Counties designated by the South Fork of the cosumnes River. The fire was started on the El Dorado County side but quickly spread to the Amador county side of the river. Once into the heavy underbrush in the river canyon the fire spread to threaten Story Winery in Amador county as the fire ravaged the area of Bell road.
In a short period of time the fire grew from 40 acres to 400 acres eating its way uphill fueled by heavy brush on a hot day during a drought.
Story Winery was the first case where the vineyard itself may have added fire fighting efforts by acting as a natural fire break.
As efforts focused on the prime croplands to the south, the fire progressed up the wildlands canyon to the east, northeast. Efforts in Amador county soon proved successful with the fire being contained to the parameter of the cultivated croplands that are almost exclusively planted with prime grapes used by premier winemakers both near and far.
With efforts in the south working, the fire moved up the Cosumnes river canyon eastward helping firefighters keep the fire off most of the vulnerable Sand Ridge community that has only two exits along a long road. Friday night saw the fire fought back from most developed areas but Saturday was to be a different story.
Normally the fire intensifies with hot air temperature, low humidity, and wind. Saturday started out hot and dry so the fire was already growing as it consumed the brush in the Cosumnes watershed. But by the mid day, winds began to rise and shift. Soon it was reported that it had jumped a fire line and people for miles around went from active concern to near panic as the fire crested a ridged with an ominous red glow and plumes of dark smoke.
Fire command resounded with an all out counter offensive including backfires and expanded request for air support. And air support came for all over as a fleet assembled over the skies in El Dorado County hitting the raging fire with helicopters, tankers, and even a giant DC-10 tanker.
The air assault was working well but not without incident. First was when a tanker was reported to have hit a bird. The plane was grounded for inspection. Even a bird can damage a plane in a manner that could cost the lives of the crew and bystanders in the very demanding conditions of making fire drops. It was soon discovered that the plane had escaped damage and was returned to the fire fight.
Then another incident involving a drone not only caused alarm of a threat of unsafe airspace for fire fighting operations, but also set a hews making precedent where it was the first time that Cal Fire has had to deal with the emerging industry of personal drones has interfered with an active fire suppression effort. Soon the incident was making headlines in the LA Times.
Very soon after the alarm was made, the Sheriff's office had contacted the drone operator and that it would not be back in the fire operations airspace.
The next day the drone operator posted the video online and noted that he, "Had learned his lesson" about airspace restrictions during a fire emergency and said it would never happen again.
In spite of this concern, flight operations continued and to great effect. This fire had been running up the South fork but ran into a plateau that marks the point of the confluence of the Middle fork with the South fork of the Cosumnes river. On that separating ridge are many more cultivated lands planted with grapes. This forced the fire to continue up the South fork due east, or to turn slightly north and run up the Middle fork of the Cosumnes river. Intensive fire fighting efforts stopping the fire from advancing up the South fork, but it slipped into the Middle fork. As the fire turned up this canyon, it had the upscale development numerous horses and millions of dollars of real estate. On the other was the Sand Ridge community with many homes well into the wildland interface and hard to defend against fire. Straight ahead was Outingdale and D'Agaostini's Pond.
On the Southern side, the development's improvements for fire safety helped hold a line against the fire at that parameter. As the fire moved up the river valley it cam to another divide where the Middle fork waters coming from the Outingdale direction meet the tributary coming from D'Agostini's Pond. The ravine leading to the D'Agostini Pond proved to be ideal for the and it quickly progressed up until it ran into more flat developed land with much of the fire fuels removed. Mount Aukum road [E-16] proved to be an effective barrier to the fire's progress and it was turned to a more northerly direction as night fell and air operations stopped. But ground crews worked around the clock building and improving fire breaks to stop the progress of the fire. Monday showed the success of several days of hard work, in adverse conditions, by almost 2,000 fire fighter.
The lines held all day and containment went from 35%, to 50%, to 75% in about 24 hours.
Another notable accomplishment of fire fighters to stop the advance toward Outingdale. The small community was at sever risk of catastrophic loss sitting directly up the valley in the direction of the prevailing winds and with nothing between them and the fire's head except for a wildness area loaded with heavy brush and no natural firebreaks. The fire fighter's success here, really meant stopping the fire's forward progress.
Today we see people returning home to adjacent areas and fire fighter's focused on completing containment lines and putting out the remaining flames within the fire lines. About 300 fewer firefighting personnel are working the Sand Fire than 24 hours earlier as progress is made.
Cris Alarcon, Placerville Newswire
July 29, 2014
Elisheva and I are happy to inform you that our winery, residence and the vineyards were saved due to the extra-ordinary effort and bravery of the firefighters that fought this fire for over 60 hours. We feel we are blessed to have survived this traumatic event - See more at: http://inedc.com/1-9260#sthash.md1LC5wF.dpuf