Petrolia Buckeye fire consumes home, grass and timber lands

Petrolia Buckeye fire consumes home, grass and timber lands

16 September 2010

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USA —  On Monday, Sept. 6, at 11:36 p.m. engines and crews from Cal Fire, Petrolia, Honeydew, and Briceland responded to what was originally estimated to be a 700-acre brush, grass and timber fire on Conklin Creek.

The fire had consumed one home in the conception of the fire. The original commitment by resources was 12 engines, 8 crews, 2 dozers, 3 water tenders, and 183 personnel. The cause of the fire was unknown, but officials soon speculated it was a generator fire.

The fire was burning in steep and rugged terrain and due to favorable weather conditions the crews were able to make good fire lines and battle the fire with success. The fire was met with some light rains which assisted fire crews.

By the end of day two, there were an estimated 27 engines, 30 crews, 3 helicopters, 5 water tenders, 2 dozers and 767 personnel fighting the fire. There were no structures in threat of burning and no evacuations were ordered. Travelers urged to use caution and avoid the firefighting areas.

Petrolia Lt. Kailan Meserve remarked that the fire was being contained. “We have lost one structure, but we saved a barn and a shack and at this time are not concerned with further structure damage.”

Briceland Crooked Prairie Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire when it broke. Briceland does not have tax funding and have 22 active volunteers. Rob Fuchs of the Briceland Department has been with them since 2006 and is a building contractor when he is not fighting fires. He arrived at the fire with Venture “Blaze” Nordell who joined in 2004 and is an equipment operator and miller on his regular days.

Honeydew Volunteer Fire Department was also a first responder to the Buckeye fire with Water Tender 6565. Ian Sigman, who joined in 1996 and runs a farm and cabins on his off time, arrived with fellow firemen, Stephanie Mattole.

Mattole was relieved by her husband Rio Mattole who has been with the Department since 2006 and together they own Blueberry Farm in Honeydew. Honeydew also is without tax funding. Sigman said, “We are concerned about funding and the risky bridges the private owners do not keep up. When there are fires like this we need to be able to get our equipment to them.”

Rohnerville Airport, which hosts the Cal-Fire air station, played host to out of town air support and there were two commercial helicopters working out of the Rohnerville airport. One of those was a former military aircraft from Vietnam that had crashed and been rebuilt. The military continued to use it and eventually sold it to a private citizen who now uses it as a private contractor in fighting fires.

Pilot Terry Richards, who is out of Madera stated, “The aircraft is out of Orland and is an old UH1H. It can hold 320 gallons of water and in the case of this fire refill every 8 to 10 minutes. There is a tank that a snorkel and pump fill from the river in this case.”

The private helicopter only does water drops and does not carry a crew unlike the CDF Kneeland based helicopter. The CDF helicopter can carry about 300 gallons of water and 8 ground crew members. The helicopter can usually fly for about 2 hours before it needs to refuel.

Also, stationed at the Rohnerville Airport is the CDF Tanker 96 which drops approximately 1200 gallons of retardant. The retardant is a mix of mostly water and a mix of Phos-check D-75F. Based at the station maintaining the equipment is Engineer Shawn Wilson who is in his 10th season.

”I am doing this about 9 months out of the year and usually I am in school the rest of the time,” Wilson said. “This year, I am just spending the time with my family in the off season.” Wilson is married and has one child.

CDF gains a lot of their information and support from their CDF N413DF Air Attack 120. This airplane doesn’t do drops and only carries a pilot and observer. The brains behind most fire fighting missions, this plane can fly at a higher altitude and communicates with tankers, choppers, planes, and ground units. It acts as the eyes of the operation.

The Buckeye fire was fully contained as of Sept. 10 and consumed 205 acres. The incident was supported by Us Forest Service, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Conservation Corps, Department of Juvenile Justice, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The estimated cost of the fire is thought to be around $2,778,696.

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