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Incident management team 11am 5/26

Here is an update based upon the briefing given this morning.  Having reviewed the most recent daily update, I do believe that published report (circulated in my last email) is an excellent summary of the current status.  Here's additional information I was able to learn during this morning's briefing:

(1)  The fire is now ~6000 acres.  This is much larger than the figure given last night at the town meeting, so I can only assume that air resources this morning were able to more accurately map the fires's perimeter;

(2) the list of resources devoted to this fire, again from the daily update, are substantial -  475 personnel, 42 engines, 5 helicopters, 2 bulldozers. The dollar figure incurred this far is two million.

(3) weather updates:  It is anticipated much lighter winds through Wednesday (15-25 mph) and some chance for light precipitation Wednesday.  However, extremely dry air will persist as is normal for this time of year.  They are relying on existing weather stations, and are adding two more mobile units to increase reliability of the local weather patterns.  The expectation is that, though moderated, the wind will continue to come out of the Southwest - with obvious ongoing threat implications for our various neighborhoods.  The weather team is a part of the incident response team.

(4) active monitoring of air quality should begin shortly, and those numbers will get published going forward;

(5) in response to my specific questions I learned the following:  The ridge fire visible to many residents last night is at the far north western portion of the fire line and there is a very large swath of open ground between it and any structures.  It is moving slowly and ground crews are working hard to stop it.  Today's lighter wind will allow for air assistance as well.  The Villa Madonna evacuation was due to the breach of a containment line which has not yet been recaptured, but again slow moving and air support should help.  The "set" status for Sun Valley and Sierra Vista was due to this same breach.  Similar story to the north for Loma Grande and Nogal Canyon as containment lines were breached.  Again, given the nature of the fuel this is a ground fire so does not move as fast as a forest crown fire would.  Efforts are being made (with the assistance of air support) to recapture those perimeter defenses but until that happens there will be no reduction in the existing "go" and "set" risk level.  I requested a projected date when we could expect those neighborhoods to return to "ready" or "no threat" status and was informed impossible to predict.

(6) Some details on the actual manner in which the fire is being fought and the role different resources play.  The burn scare is inherently dangerous to firefighters due to standing and fallen (ready to roll) dead trees.  That combined with some extremely steep terrain poses a very big challenge.  As an example, a hot shot team spent a good part of yesterday, at the northern reaches of the fire, simply scouting and clearing a path just to reach the fire.  It was also emphasized that while air support can "slow" the fire, it will burn though those water and retardant drops if ground personnel cannot get to it in time.  Apparently air drops alone cannot extinguish a fire without ground personnel following up relatively quickly.

I certainly am not a fire expert so I take the representations made at face value.  I certainly am not second guessing the incident crew at this critical point.  The fact that our own OES, in whose judgment I have great faith,  is fully in the loop as to decisions and tactics leads me to believe that at this point appropriate resources are being applied in a logical and efficient manner.  

I note that the FB incident page includes a presentation with a large map and explanation as to what transpired yesterday and the plans for today.  I urge you to take a look at that if you want a much more granular explanation.

I am concerned that information get out timely and accurately.  I have added the County OES website to the existing two beneath my signature line as I understand communication between OES and the Forest Service is fully established and that our County site is and will remain current.  For instance, you will now see on our County site tthat the Red Cross has set up a second evacuation location at the Capitan high school.  The Fairgrounds continues as an evacuation site and is manned by our local CERTA volunteers.  If you are hauling large animals, of course, the Fairgrounds is the site that can handle that for you.

I will continue to update as information becomes available.  This fire is certainly not out and remains a threat to this entire community, but if the winds stay down for the next few days we may be on the way to containment.


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