• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The sheriff's deputy dropped the crew off at a dirt road leading to the chicken ranch. "We started hiking the road, and we were saying, 'It looks like it is a ways off,' but we didn't have wheels, and the helicopter was taking care of the structure threat, so we just started hiking the road. Luckily, a local came by who lived down that road, and we asked him, 'Did you see the head of the fire down there?' and he said, 'Yeah, it is about a half mile from the chicken ranch.' And he said, 'Do you guys want a ride?' So we just hopped in the back of his truck, and he took us right to the chicken ranch, where there were engines protecting the structure."

There was also a California Department of Forestry-contracted bulldozer in the area. So the helitack crew worked in conjunction with it, started cut lines at the very head of the fire. In the meantime, back on Highway 94 in the Mountain Empire area, Scully had ordered a hose line to be laid around the northwest perimeter of the fire. He was eager to prevent the fire from burning up Hauser Mountain, directly north across the river bottom from the turnout where he's parked now, "Because once it got established on that hill up there," he explains, "our next point to stop it would have been Hauser Canyon on the other side, where we would have had zero probability of success -- narrow canyon with one little dirt road down in the bottom of it; very steep on both sides; heavy brush; hasn't burned in many, many years; one way in, one way out. After that, the fire would have been off to Lake Morena."

But by laying the hose line around that edge of the fire, and with consistent retardant drops from the airplanes, the firefighters prevented the fire from going up Hauser Mountain. By 5:30 p.m., 6000 feet of inch-and-a-half hose had been laid around the northern perimeter of the fire, 100 feet at a time. And 4000 feet had been laid around the eastern end. The two ends met at the leading edge of the fire, where Jed Burt and his helitack crewmates were working, about half a mile southwest of the chicken ranch. The team was then pulled off of the line. "When the hose lay showed up," Burt says, "there was really no need for the helitack team to be there. And we were out of water anyway because we had been on our own for a while."

The joining of the two hose lines signaled the end of the spread of the fire, though it continued to burn much later into the night. "We actually completed the fire lines," Scully says, "meaning, we had physically cut line around the whole fire at about 10:00 o'clock last night."

In the end, 960 acres burned on the U.S. side of the border. A single abandoned house was consumed. No one was injured. In addition to the 15 local engines and six aircraft originally dispatched to the fire, Scully says, "We used the county mutual-aid program for probably 30 or 35 engines from all different areas.

"You know, this fire whupped us pretty good. It whupped us all day long. Fortunately, the weather was not bad at all. If this had been a 100-degree day, with 9 percent humidity, we would have probably had a 10,000-acre fire."

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!