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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Oh Shit incident - Canyon Fire - Del puerto Canyon California 2006

water tender del puerto canyon wildland fireThe true story of the infamous "Oh Shit incident"

Picture from water tender at Canyon Fire ( Del Puerto Canyon )Picture from water tender at Canyon Fire (Del Puerto Canyon)

This was taken out of the window of water tender turning around on a goat trail near the VOA antenna farm during the Del Puerto Canyon fire summer 0f 2006.

We affectionately refer to the subsequent change of plans as the "
Oh Shit incident"
My water tender was part of a water tender strike team with four local government water tenders and a Cal Fire supervisor, we had dozer's somewhere further ahead of us and we had passed some dozer's on the trail/road earlier.

A CDF supervisor, a local government water tender and myself got a bit ahead of the other water tenders going up the steep roads and after a hour or so of driving to the fire the fire meet us apparently with the help of a late morning wind change the fire decided to meet us head on,

just as a real nice local government water tender, a CDF leader, and my water tender reached the top of a saddle at a fire road intersection and temporarily parked to sort out and decide proper staging for the trucks I soon realized the fire was coming up a chimney like draw right at us towards the saddle we were parked on.
I pointed this out to the super and we agreed
Oh Shit it may be time to go somewhere else.

This left very few choices that seemed good!

1.) Up to the VOA site on the top of the fire but a supposedly safe area? but would require driving up a very steep washed out grade which once any water spilled would not only be impassable but life threatening dangerous with the approaching fire and chance of roll over.

Probably was not doable even if half the load of water had been dumped first. Maybe with half load of water and rear lockers or full six wheel drive.

2.) Deploy the trucks in a safe zone right there was the first plan but was soon determined to be too small and unsafe and became a back up plan.

Find emergency fire shelter deployment area in my mind.
Which at this point I was holding in my hand and I had put on every piece of PPE, Nomex, gloves, helmet, goggles everything which we are required to have and more.

3.) Continue along road to large safe area further up which had only one problem associated with it, That was towards the flare up and ran along the crest of the hill above the fire flaming up that side of the hill.

At this point my side spray was pointed directly at the flames coming up the chimney but the Cal Fire Boss wanted to save the water we had just spent hours getting to this area of the fire which was about 30,000 acres at this point. And if you think about it he was escorting over twenty thousand gallons of water to the seat of the fire where it was sorely needed.

Ok it's your water? Whats the plan boss?

In hindsight: We would of probably made it but it would of been foolish.

In hindsight: We would of probably made it but it would of been foolish.

4.) Turn around and go back down the road we just came up and get off the top of the hill to the leeward side of the firestorm.

water tender Del Puerto canyon wild land fire
Sounds good! Lets go! With the Cal Fire Boss leading and then my 2400 gallon truck followed up by a big 5000 gallon Hughson Fire department water tender which is a local central San Joaquin Valley fire department rig we get turned around and head back down the road off the top and right into these water tenders coming up.

So we get turned around headed down hill and right then the other rigs coming up arrive!
Oh Shit! the other Local Gov water tenders caught up to us!
coming up all on a fire trail with a spotting firestorm on three sides of us..
and behind them a bunch of CDF wild land rigs are coming up.

So the driver of the rig I am now pointed at nose to nose on this narrow road has the biggest "
Oh Shit" look in his eyes and a funny look comes over him as he has just realized he needs to back his rig down this goat path he just drove up while letting the CDF rigs pass by to fight the rapidly approaching fire front which is in the background.

Cal Hydro water tender at Canyon FireCal Hydro water tender at Canyon Fire
Cal Hydro water tender preforming a strategic repositioning maneuver!

At this point backing downhill in front of me are is the rest of the strike team of 3 Local Gov water tenders, a strike team of local government structure protection engines. And the whole time we are trying to find small road side cut outs to let the CDF rigs pass to attack the fire behind us.

Local Gov water tender Oh Shit incident

Oh Shit!

once the bunch of CDF/Cal Fire wildland engines passed us, the crews jumped out and knocked the heat out of the main fire below the
VOA antenna farm during CANYON FIREPicture of VOA Antenna during Canyon Fire

VOA antenna's, residential house and outbuildings at the top. CDF/CalFire made a great stop on a very steep and dry mixed grass, oaks, Chemise and brush terrain and an almost vertical fire line.

View out drivers window spot fire across ridge

View out of water tender, drivers window of spot fire across a small canyon

The fire was spotting badly and rapidly jumping from canyon top to canyon top across the ridge lines...

This fire was a spot fire only minutes beforeThis fire was a small spot fire across a draw only minutes before

After the fire passed our original stopping point and CDF crews had moved further on we got turned around and came right back to the area we had just left,
for now we had returned to ground zero of an fire line event that will always be called the "Oh Shit incident"At this time on my own initiative I began to aggressively fight the small fires still burning in the base of a fence post! unable to successfully extinguish the flames alone due to dehydration I was soon joined in this en devour with the LG tender crews.

Wildland fire pictureWe sized up the situation and reckoned the need to conserve the precious water in the trucks and so we used our own personal God given fire hose and deploying a relay system of "hands on" and directed attacks on the base of the fire successfully saved an old wooden fence post in a timely and very efficient manner.

Original story at Water Trucks and Water Tenders: Oh Shit

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