Historic buildings were saved on island

October 13, 2008 6:57:18 PM PDT
Angel Island is a California state park, that's home to more than 100 historic structures. It's the largest island in San Francisco Bay.

Of all the places to look like Dante's Inferno, who would have thought it would have been Angel Island?

"It started out relatively slow on the radio. By the time we got here, and on the news, we watched before we left, it was quite big," said Ryan Day, from the Larkspur Fire Department.

Flames began on the east side of the island, flames climbed to the peak, and then moved their way south. Again and again on Monday, helicopters dipped their buckets into the San Francisco Bay, flew a few short yards, made another drop, and repeated the process. In steep, unknown terrain, it was the only way to get water onto many of these hotspots.

"You can see there is an elevation change of 700 feet from her to the top of the hill," said Jeff Davis, from the Novato Fire Department.

Fire crews did catch a break with the winds, Monday. They stayed down, no more 25-mile-per-hour gusts or 30 foot high flames. Firemen had worried about an island filled with dense, dry brush that had not burned in years. Even so, many firefighters were already tired when they arrived, having fought other blazes in Calistoga and Napa earlier last weekend.

"Been on the road all weekend," said a firefighter.

Of the 120 historic buildings on the island, none were more threatened than Camp Reynolds, it served as an outpost during the Civil War. Last night the flames came within 100 yards.

"All the way back to 1863 we had soldiers, here, defending the San Francisco Bay from Confederate raider ships that were threatening to enter," said Casey Lee, from the California State Parks.

State Parks still does not know when Angel Island will re-open. CAL FIRE says the mopping up will take a while, but when you see more fire crews leaving an operation than arriving, it's a good sign.

"Glad to be relieved. Go and get some sleep," said Davis.


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