‘Perfect wind-driven fire’ settling down
August 26, 2004
STEAMBOAT – Firefighters got a handle on the Andrew fire, aided by cooler temperatures and higher humidity on Thursday.
Hand crews continued to mop up hot spots along the south end of the Virginia Foothills, though almost no aerial support was called for.
“The danger’s not gone, but it’s been reduced measurably,” said fire information officer Tom Crawford.
Fire engines and hand crews were stationed at homes on the end of Ravazza Road as well as along Geiger Grade in case the fire kicked up again. Isolated columns of smoke rose from distant, black hills.
Craig McArdle of the Auburn (Calif.) Fire Department was relaxing in a cool breeze.
“I think this is as hard as it’s going to blow,” he said. “So as long as (the fire) stays inside the black we’re dialed.”
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SBC trucks and crews moved through the neighborhood reconnecting phone lines destroyed by the fast-moving fire Wednesday night.
Although the fire appeared to be mostly in control, fire managers still planned to hand over control to the type-1 national team, which arrived Thursday. The team was ordered when the fire was burning homes and hundreds more were threatened.
“Right now, it doesn’t appear (we need a type-one team) but there’s a significant cost to mobilize a team so we felt it was best for them to go ahead and assume control,” said Paul Bannister, assistant fire-management officer for the Carson City Bureau of Land Management office. Bringing in the national team will allow local agencies to get back to their regular duties, he said.
“The biggest thing that holds us up is logistics,” said Scott Johnson, incident commander on the fire Thursday. “You know, we’re supporting more than 500 people out here so we’ve got comps claims, finance – all of that. And (the type-1 team) has the staff to do it.”
The type-1 team – with members from Idaho, Utah and Nevada – is better prepared to handle the fire in case it takes off again, he said.
“All it takes is the wind to come up. We get a 25 mph gust, and we’re off.”
Johnson said the Andrew fire on Wednesday was the “perfect wind-driven fire.”
“We were seeing some real long-distance spotting, like half-mile and three-quarter mile jumps,” he said. “We were seeing winds gusting up to 45 mph.”
The total acreage burned by the fire was downsized to 2,692 acres by BLM Management Fuels Specialist Tim Roide.
He used a global positioning system from a helicopter to measure the area.
“He flew the perimeter and he said it hasn’t changed since last night,” Crawford said. “Now there’s almost no activity up there at all.”
The Andrew fire was apparently started Wednesday afternoon by a man target shooting. He tried to fight the blaze before calling 911. It’s unclear if he’ll face charges or be required to pay the cost of fighting the fire.
The BLM and the Reno Fire Department came up with a cost-sharing plan Thursday. The fire department will pay for the cost of operating structure engines and the BLM will cover everything else, Bannister said.
About 550 firefighters fought the blaze, along with five large air tankers, six single-engine tankers and eight total helicopters – six flying out of a temporary heli-base in the valley and two on standby at the National Guard base in Stead.
The cost of operating the aircraft will be more than $30,000, Johnson said.
It’s too early to estimate the total cost of the fire, he said.
“My guess would be at least $1 million.”
Firefighters working the blaze came out from Auburn, Calif.; Placer County, Calif.; north and South Lake Tahoe; Truckee; Reno; Carson City; and Douglas, Storey and Lyon counties.
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.