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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fire on the Mountain

The Butler II Fire

Butler II Slide Show Click 4 Show

The Butler II fire had singed 14,039 acres by Tuesday night, Sept. 18th, 1007, with about 2,300 firefighters from around California battling the fire.
For such a dry, hot year, we have not had much of a fire season. This was of course a reminder that here in Southern California there is no end to fire season anymore. Santa Ana winds have not even started yet. After a couple of days on the fire line it was time to procure new Nomex. The wear of the last 10 years on my old stuff was showing as a safety concern.
This fire had made several attempts at a small, Big Bear Lake community of Fawnskin, evacuated it and Green Valley Lake and even loomed over the desert town of Lucerne Valley. The weather played a critical part in the fire’s behavior. It always does, but this fire was ‘out’ at one point after lighting had started it two weeks prior when it was just called the Butler Fire. Mountain thunder storms had put a damper on its threatening nature. Or so it seemed. Hot dry winds blew it out of its containment and back onto the front page.
The low temps on the mountain over the weekend dipped to 37 and had me finding my way closer to the fire line for warmth during some night backfire shooting.

Map of Fire from Saturday, Sept. 14, 2007 14,000 acers

Cleaning took a pile of Q-tips and alcohol to get the smoke and PhosChek fire retardant off two cameras.

More fires to come?

"Several firefighters left the San Bernardino National Forest on Wednesday, as crews moved closer to containing the Butler Fire 2 Fire.

However Rocky Opliger, incident commander and assistant chief of fire and aviation operations for the San Bernardino National Forest, told firefighters assembled for Wednesday evening's briefing that the
blaze could be followed by additional fires in the coming weeks. "We're just at the beginning of fire season in Southern California. If you're not from Southern California, you probably don't believe
that," Opliger said. "Wait for the Santa Ana winds to pick up, and you'll be back."

Last year, the deadly Esperanza Fire caused the deaths of five firefighters in October after an arsonist lit a blaze in Cabazon that was heavily fanned by Santa Ana winds. The massive Old and Grand Prix fires were also October blazes. Those fires raged in 2003.

A cold one

Firefighters wore coats and gloves as they prepared for Wednesday night's shift. Temperatures were down to about 50 degrees around 6 p.m. and expected to get lower.

As a predicted rainstorm approaches the San Bernardino Mountains, crews were advised to watch out for signs of hypothermia "You're not going to stay warm," incident commander Rockty Opliger told firefighters near the conclusion of the Wednesday evening briefing. "I know you're going to stay busy."

Andrew Edwards - The Sun

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