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‘Town’ fights fire

More than 630 firefighters gather around high school to fight blaze

Posted: June 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Dylan Lynn, a member of the Sundowners, a U.S. Forest Service fire crew, sharpens a hoe before he returns to the front line. Dylan Lynn, a member of the Sundowners, a U.S. Forest Service fire crew, sharpens a hoe before he returns to the front line.
Dylan Lynn, a member of the Sundowners, a U.S. Forest Service fire crew, sharpens a hoe before he returns to the front line.

GORMAN — With the Hungry Valley brush fire more than 60 percent contained, firefighting operations at an elaborate base camp set up on Frazier Mountain were wrapping up on Monday.

Many of the more than 630 firefighters brought in from more than half a dozen fire detachments have completed their assigned duties, said a spokeswoman for the Las Padres National Forest.

Fire officials hope to complete all firefighting at Hungry Valley by noon Wednesday and to fully dismantle all operations at the sprawling base camp.

“It’s like a little town here, and now we’re wrapping up,” said Paula Martinez, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

“We even have our own mayor,” she said, referring to Operations Commander Dana D’Andrea.

When fire broke out in Hungry Valley around noon Saturday, the Forest Service pressed regular firefighting crews into action and established an operations hub called an “incident command center” at Frazier Mountain High School.

More than two dozen transport trailers, each outfitted with its own speciality, created a “town” perimeter for the base in the high school’s parking lot.

Generators were hooked up, cables unrolled, and power fed to each essential trailer — the operations trailer, the media trailer, “communications unit” trailer and a pantry trailer to feed hungry crews fighting the Hungry Valley fire.

“We even have a finances trailer,” Martinez said, referring to the place where firefighters get paid for their work.

Tents were erected and stretched over an outdoor mess hall for firefighters working up appetite.

Three transport trailers, each containing 4,000 gallons, provided water — not for extinguishing the fire, but for providing mobile showers for the firefighters.

A satellite dish the size of monster truck tire kept communications open for laptop computers throughout the camp.

Boxes of supplies were neatly stacked inside a temporary red fence perimeter.

“Most of the people sleep in tents,” Martinez said, explaining the myriad specialties assembled specifically for fighting fires.

“The day-sleepers try to find shady locations,” she said, referring to fire crews assigned to working through the night.

Firefighters were brought in from Sequoia National Forest, Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino, Sierra National Forest and Ventura County, Maritinez said.

Some were assigned to 20-member “hand crews” armed with shovels, picks and chainsaws; others manned pumps that fed water to crews on the fire line, she said.

Water-dumping and fire-retardant-dropping aircraft were brought in to douse ridge tops.

Helicopters — offering easier aerial access to valleys — dumped water directly on flames. Some dropped 2,000 gallons at a time; smaller ones dropped 800 gallons.

Fire operations leaders said Sunday the Hungry Valley fire had blackened 1,500 acres. On Monday, however, that figure was modified to 700 acres burned, Martinez said.

“We had a reconnaissance flight done and a more accurate reading taken of the damage,” she said.

No one was hurt in the fire or in the firefighting efforts, and no structure was damaged.




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