Jumbo tanker brought in as forest fire doubles in size

Jumbo tanker brought in as forest firedoubles in size

25 July 2006

published by http://www.signonsandiego.com

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST – With the Horse fire still running wild and more than doubling in size, fire officials were bringing in heavy airpower Tuesday in the form of a jumbo-jet air tanker in a bid to slow the fire’s advance.

NANCEE E. LEWIS / Union-Tribune
Jonathan Jordan watched the wildfire Monday from a hill above Carveacre in the Cleveland
National Forest, where 7,000 acres have burned southeast of Alpine since Sunday morning.

As of Tuesday morning, the 3-day-old blaze had charred an estimated 15,400 acres and was still only 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Erratic winds during the day are frustrating efforts to contain the blaze, said CDF spokeswoman Roxanne Provaznik.

“The winds come from one direction. They make some progress. Then, the winds shift and they lose all the progress they made,” she said.

However, firefighters were expecting a big boost Tuesday with the arrival of Tanker 910, a DC-10 airliner that has been converted into a “super tanker,” Provaznik said.

The three-engine jumbo jet carries up to 12,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, which it can release on a fire in as little as 8 seconds. It was used in California for the first time on the Sawtooth fire in San Bernardino County a week ago, Provaznik said.

Firefighters plan to use the DC-10 to “pre-treat” sections of the Hauser Wilderness in the fire’s path, dumping retardant on the area to slow the fire’s spread, she said.

The fire was fairly quiet overnight. But later in the day, as temperatures begin to rise, fire officials expect it to begin moving, Provaznik said.

There were 778 firefighters and 102 engines assigned to the blaze, along with four bulldozers. Seven helicopters, six air tankers and eight water tenders also are fighting the fire.

Firefighters are focusing Tuesday on the area where the fire began Sunday, Horsethief Canyon and the east side of Lyons Valley Road, she said.

“There are homes a couple of miles away from there,” Provaznik said. “The fire never burned on the other side of Lyons Valley Road, and they’re concerned about that happening.”

Some of the people displaced by the fire have sought refuge at the Red Cross shelter at Joan MacQueen Middle School on Tavern Road in Alpine.

About 11 of them spent the night on cots inside the school’s air-conditioned gymnasium Monday night, while 14 slept outside to stay with their pets, said Red Cross spokeswoman Gayle Falkenthal. Many others have stopped by the facility to eat, get information, talk with other evacuees or to just cool off, Falkenthal said.

People who want to know more about the assistance the Red Cross is offering can call (858) 309-1200 or check the Web site at www.sdarc.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=erKQL4NQE&b=253493&ct=2811537

By Greg Gross, Debbi Farr Baker and Karen Kucher



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