SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST – Crews made excellent progress on the French Fire overnight. Cooler weather helped with suppression efforts and direct line construction along the northwest perimeter, the most active area of the fire.
The French Fire is now listed at 13,717 acres with 40% containment. There are currently 1,883 personnel assigned to the incident.
With the fire having burned down to San Joaquin River on the east, officials are now able to include the southern portion of the eastern flank in the containment number. The heavy black lines on the map are contained fire lines, and the red portions are lines still under construction or edges of the river that have not cooled down enough to be included..
An early lifting of the inversion yesterday allowed aircraft to lift off just after noon, providing support to crews on the ground and enabling firefighters to make good progress.
These two maps show the results of lots of hard work over the past two days, aided by lower temps and higher humidities. The image on the left was taken about 2 a.m. Sunday, and the one on the right was taken Monday evening at about 9 p.m.
One firefighter suffered an injury on the line early this morning. A burnt snag fell and struck a crew member, knocking him unconscious. Fortunately, incident planners are prepared for such emergencies, and have a helicopter out of Kern County Fire with night vision capabilities and a paramedic, stationed at the Bass Lake Ranger Station in North Fork.
The helicopter responded to the location, hoisted the patient into the ship with a winch, and flew him to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. Liaison Officer Dennis Rein quickly drove down the mountain so as to be there when the firefighter arrived at the hospital.
“We want to be there when they get there, contact the family and line out a place for them family to stay,” said Liaison Officer Allen Johnson, who notes the importance of making sure someone who is taken off the lines due to injury doesn’t feel completely disconnected from his unit. “The patient knows those of us from the management team, and we want them to know we’re there for them.”
There is a patient advocate to handle all the details, such as any workman’s comp issues they may have. The prognosis for the injured firefighter is very good, and the family is with him at the hospital.
The Spike Camp at the Minarets Work Station is now in use by firefighters, saving them driving time and reducing their exposure to the risks of the road after a long, exhausting shift. Opening of the camp was delayed by very active fire behavior in the area over the weekend. Crews working on the northern perimeter will now be able to eat, shower and sleep a very short distance from their assignments.
Today crews will continue building and reinforcing containment lines on the north and west perimeters. They will also begin fireline suppression repair work, which is repairing or improving fire damaged lands unlikely to recover on their own. The extent of repair will vary depending upon intended use after the fire.
For example, the dozers will pull berms back onto the trail and return the line to original grade to prevent concentrations of water flow. Fire hand crews will construct waterbars at or below the slope break, and after the fire is cold, slash and debris can be scattered along the length of the fireline, and barriers put in place to discourage future use as jeep or OHV trails.
Investigators continue to seek the public’s help in identifying the person or persons responsible for the abandoned campfire that started the French Fire just below Rock Creek Campground. Anyone with information about persons seen in the area of Rock Creek Road near the San Joaquin River during the afternoon or evening of Sunday, July 27, is encouraged to call the 559-877-2605.
For information about the Forest Closure and road closures can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/o44cvyu .