Angel Island fire is 75 percent contained

October 14, 2008 1:25:37 AM PDT
Local crews are still busy on the fire lines of Angel Island. Four hundred acres have burned on Angel Island out in the bay and firefighters have been battling flames on the ground and from the air, since the blaze broke out Sunday night.

Fire crews made good progress and protected the historic buildings on Angel Island. About 140 firefighters returned Monday evening, but about 200 others are still on the island mopping up. It's 75 percent contained and by Tuesday firefighters say it'll be under control.

The fire burned 380 acres of terrain, which is nearly half of Angel Island. No cause has been determined, but evacuated campers say it started near the campgrounds. Sunday night, it looked as though all might be lost on Angel Island.

"So how high were the flames at one point?" asked ABC7.
"Hard to gage. 20, 30 feet," said Ryan Day, of the Larkspur Fire Department.
"And the winds?" asked ABC7.
"Gusting 15 to 20," said Day.

"We know that it started somewhere in this northeast side of the island," said Mike Giannini, of the Marin County Fire Department.

Monday night, six strike teams and about 140 firefighters are being pulled back.

"Today, the weather changed. Even though it was warmer, the winds weren't as pronounced as they had been and it worked really well," said Mike Giannini.

Tired crews returned by ferry declaring victory in saving the island where $15 million in historic renovations are near completion.

"I'm lucky I have hair left on my head. It was that stressful," said Eddie Wong, Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

Wong had to cancel Tuesday's sneak preview of the renovated immigration station. It's where thousands of Chinese immigrants were turned away or detained for months as part of the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882.

"There was supposed to be 200 people in one room. It ended up being 500 people in one room," said Wong.

As for the wildlife on the island, state park officials say it looks like the majority of about 60 deer survived. It could have been much worse, but 12 years ago, about 80 acres of eucalyptus trees were removed.

"One of the things we used to say, in the days that we were talking about this, is we could have a fire on Angel Island and spot fires would go to Tiburon. So what happened over here is much less intense wildfire," said David Boyd, from the California State Parks Department.

Instead, most of the thick brush was burned away and no structures were lost. It was a win-win situation.

Transporting 13 engines and hundreds of firefighters by ferry, delayed the response, but those Red Flag conditions miraculously disappeared, giving firefighters the upper hand.

ABC7's Alan Wang wrote a back story about Angel Island and how he gained new respect for it.
Click here to read Alan's blog: The historical significance of Angel Island


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