Massive wildfire approaching Bonny Doon

August 15, 2009 11:52:43 AM PDT
The Lockheed Fire has burned 5,036 acres and is now 15 percent contained. Crews spent Friday battling flames both from the sky and on the ground, making at least a little progress. At one pond, two choppers at once dip their hoses into the water and take another trip to fight flames creeping over the hillside.

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Firefighters are trying to box in the fire with the Lockheed property to the north, Empire Grade Road to the east, Bonny Doon Road to the South and Swanton Road to the west. The fire is growing at a rate of about 2,000 acres every 12 hours.

Popping embers and hot flames, fueled by strong onshore winds, aggressively pushed the Lockheed Fire towards the town of Bonny Doon. On Purdy Ranch Road, heavy smoke wafting through the trees alerted strike teams that the fire was getting close.

Spot fires began erupting along the road. The blaze crept down the hillside, ignited by heavy timber and dry thick ground cover. Firefighters decided to take a stand on Purdy Ranch Road -- a manmade fire break.

Visalia firefighter Mark Fleming was part of a strike team assigned to monitor the encroaching flames.

"Our assignment is to hold the fire at this dirt road and keep it from jumping this line," said Fleming.

Bulldozers were called in to widen the fire line. CAL FIRE hoped airstrikes would slow the blaze on this flank and cool down the heat so firefighters could go in. Strike teams were also on this flank last night. They succeeded in stopping another fiery assault.

"It was burning all around it last night when we here," said property owner Bud McCrary

McCrary was amazed the fire spared the outhouse. More importantly, firefighters saved the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project -- a renowned research fishery which is trying to save the endangered Coho Salmon. Incredibly, everything was unscathed. Battalion Chief John Lucchesi explains what his crew did.

"They put foam on the building as a measure to protect it while they had to retreat to safer grounds while the fire burned through," said Batt. Chief John Lucchesi.

McCrary also saw the inferno last night. "It was extremely hot. It was just like you were in an oven because the heat is coming from this side and coming from the other side of the creek as well," said McCrary.

"At one point, they had 75 foot flames on this hillside right here. Yeah, it was pretty hot and nasty in here," said Batt. Chief Lucchesi.

On Friday, it was the same thing. Hot and nasty for the 700 firefighters working 24 hour shifts. CAL FIRE predicts it will take more than a week to contain the fire. Their target date is August 23.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, as approved the use of federal funds to help California fight the Lockheed Fire. The funds will pay for 75 percent of the firefighting costs and it is much needed since the state is facing serious budget constraints.

While the Lockheed Fire is threatening about 1,000 structures, officials so far say none have burned. More than 2,400 residents have obeyed the mandatory evacuations and left their homes in the communities of Swanton, Bonny Doon and Davenport, but fire and law enforcement will continue making last minute welfare checks.

A Santa Cruz County sheriff said that they are going be patrolling the area to make sure there is no looting going on.

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