Firefighters make major progress on 'Yellow Fire'

May 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Yountville Thursday, CAL FIRE was in the home stretch of trying to get the Yellow Fire contained by evening and firefighters were literally racing against the clock trying to get as much done as possible before the record heat moved in. Crews were on the move early making their final push for containment on the fire that had scorched 125 acres and destroyed one home.

The Yellow Fire had been fueled by wind, low humidity, and heat. Crews found themselves facing similar problems Thursday.

"I think the big challenge today is going to be the heat supervisory," said CAL FIRE spokesperson Capt. Amy Head. With temperatures in the 90s and steep terrain to climb, CAL FIRE had to dig, at times by hand, a 500-foot line of containment and they must work fast while temperatures are still cool.

"We definitely try to get a lot of our work done in the cooler hours at night, in the morning, in the evening," Head said. "So, we definitely make that big push when we have the cooler weather in our favor."

A lack of visible smoke in the area Thursday evening, meant big progress had been made. When all that remains of Wednesday's big fire is a wisp of smoke and a few trucks with crews keeping eyes on it, one may pretty much assume the danger has passed.

Still, leave it to the people at CAL FIRE to err on the side of caution, even now. "The concern is that if we don't put it all out, something could spark up and heat up if the winds come up, it could throw embers into some more dry grass and maybe start another fire," CAL FIRE spokesperson Capt. Amy Head said

Early Thursday, CAL FIRE estimated they would have the Yellow Fire fully contained by 6 p.m. Thursday. By 2 p.m., they had pushed that estimate back until possibly Friday morning.

Wanted: More Firefighters

A bit more than 24 hours into a fire season that began well ahead of schedule, the agency that protects this state has ramped up training -- hard training. Thursday was final exam day for seasonal crews who pretty much give their summers and falls to CAL FIRE. "It's the best job ever," seasonal firefighter Brandon Millitello told ABC7 News.

CAL FIRE is looking for more help. Trainee Ryan Avila, now in his fifth fire season, says emphasis this year is on preparing for the heat.

"Everybody kind of watches out for everyone else, seeing for signs of stress or heat illnesses and things like that. We all keep water on our packs in CamelBaks or in canteens," Millitello said.

Hydration was the order of the day from the command center Thursday. So, how dangerous is the fire danger, really? CAL FIRE says it typically does not see these kinds of dry conditions until June so they are predicting a very long and dangerous fire season ahead. In fact, CAL FIRE officials say that right now, they just can't train firefighters fast enough.

Based on the weather and the fires already seen this season, it's a job the trainees might be doing for real somewhere in the state as soon as Friday. "Someone's got to do it. Might as well be me," another firefighter said.


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