Mustang fire is now contained

May 14, 2009 8:55:29 PM PDT
There is good news on the fire lines in Santa Clara County, but this early in the season, firefighters have already been busy in the Bay Area and in Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, it is expensive and it's exhausting. The fire has been held at about 570 acres near Henry Coe State Park, at the Santa Clara County - Stanislaus County line.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you from ABC7 News

Despite some of the wind at the base camp, the fire crews made some excellent progress on Thursday on the wildfire. As of 5 p.m. it was 90 percent contained and 100 percent was reached on the Mustang Fire by 8 p.m. Thursday night.

Firefighters hope the blackened earth from the Mustang fire is not hiding any burning embers. On Thursday morning Cal Fire launched an assault of engines and hand crews to contain the fire -- and just getting to it was one challenge.

"Single-lane, dirt road, going through creeks and water crossings, and climbing hills and finally getting on top of the fire," said Battalion Chief Rob Van Wormer, the Cal Fire incident commander.

The wildfire started Wednesday afternoon in a remote area just southeast of Henry Coe State Park. More than 500 firefighters, 160 prison inmates and air resources have battled the blaze. Some crews including one from Marin County were diverted from the Santa Barbara fire.

"Because we're in our third year of drought, lack of rainfall, conditions of vegetation at this time, we think it's going to be a busy fire season -- certainly a long fire season," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Paul Van Gerwen.

That same dry brush is a threat to homes across the state. Just miles from the Mustang Fire, Bernie Martinez was hard at work cutting back brush in Morgan Hill.

Elsi Stock, a Morgan Hill homeowner, is having tall grass around her home cleared, but also truckloads of heavier fire fuel.

"One of the fire deputies came and told me that we had to take out every second bush on the hillside," said Stock.

Defensible space around homes can literally save them when resources are stretched thin. Cal Fire is concerned about $55 million in proposed budget cuts.

"Our goal is to keep 95 percent of the fires 10 acres or less and if you cut resources it's very difficult to do that and if you have lots of large fires it actually costs more in the long run. So there is a balance there; so we have to see how the budget turns out," said Van Gerwen.

Fighting these wildfires is expensive. The Santa Barbara wildfire which took out 80 homes cost $17 million to fight. The Mustang Fire didn't damage any structures since it was so remote and the estimated cost is at $630,000. That figure is expected to go up as expenses are added. Overall, this fire burned 570 acres.

MORE: ABC7's Bay Area wildfire resource guide and safety tips
FULL COVERAGE: Latest California wildfire headlines

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget


Load Comments