Weather helps firefigthers fight fires

May 26, 2008 9:06:30 PM PDT
Several days of moist cool weather and easing winds have really made a difference.

CAL FIRE estimates the burned acreage is just less than 4,000 and the fire is now 80-percent contained.

Thirty-six homes and 10 other buildings have been destroyed; 100 others are listed as threatened.

About 300 firefighters have been demobilized, so they will be going home to their fire stations and their families.

This leg of the fire is burning in a neighborhood with a street name that seems contradictory -- its name is "Serenity."

On Monday, it was anything but serene.

Chopper after chopper made water drops, trying to snuff out hotspots when they came too close to the firebreaks.

Firefighters have succeeded in building lines around the entire fire but one third of those lines still need to be shored up.

Hotspots keep popping up, and that's why these firefighters were at serenity doing what they call "blacking the line."

"We set up a back fire or fire out from our continuing lines or control lines to meet that fire coming up so it loses its intensity," said CAL FIRE firefighter Jeremy Rochholz.

In short, firefighters are using fire to fight fire. It's a kind of self medicating strategy.

All the while, the hand to hand mopping up operations continues to be fought by firefighters and state prison inmates supervised by the Department of Forestry.

Steven Howe is serving an 18-year sentence for burglary. He and other convicts are trained to fight fires. This kind of job can reduce an inmate's sentence by a third.

"We like it. We get out and we do some good and it makes us feel better," said Howe.

These inmates are like the foot soldiers of the fire suppression effort.

"They go into places we can't get our engines. Go into places we can't get our dozers. They basically hike in and out in probably the most treacherous and dangerous terrain," said CAL FIRE spokesperson Don Camp.

By firefighting, inmates can reduce their prison time by as much as a third. So, they are doing good not only for the public, but also for themselves.

Containment is now at around 80 percent and they expect full containment by 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening.