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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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July 21, 2006     The Catalina Islander
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July 21, 2006
 

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ix Page 6 Continued from page I plume or "header" was leaning towards Palos Verdes indicating that the winds were blowing from the South East and at about 4 miles per hour. They arrived at approximately 5:17 p.m. Based on their assessment, two incident objectives were established: Hold the fire to the west side of Middle Ranch Road to keep it from burningtowards A ;alon and catch the "slop-over" where it jumped Airport Road and was now threatening to burn downhill towards the Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay. As Capt. Krug arrived in Avalon Engine 2 with a six man crew, he was given the assignment to catch the slop-over along Air- port Road. When Firefighter Specialist Rich Warner arrived in Los Ange- les County Engine 55, he was assigned to assist Captain Chap- man in Patrol 55 along Middle Ranch Road to hold the fire to the west side. " A sudden shift in the wind and a flare up in a large bush sent flames across Middle Ranch Road. Like the needle of a compass the smoke column pointing towards Palos Verdes instantly changed direction and laid down a finger of fire pointed straight at Avalon. Engine and Patrol 55 quickly knocked down the flare up and held the fire from jumping the road. Although there w n't much threat before the wind shifted fire units had been wisely placed along that vulnerable flank in case a sud- den change in conditions like this occurred. Firefighters are trained to use the wind to their advantage when they can but to never ever trust it completely. LLke Lady Luck or a fickle mistress the wind can instantly desert you and become your worst enemy. It was now about 5:25 p.m. The Cat Fire as it came to be known was similar in the shape to a large triangle. With two sides covered with fire resources from Avalon the fire continued to bum on the top side. Copter 17 was just arriving llm /B/u.Ii IIgUgMmll Friday, July 21, 2006 Above: LA County Fire Authority helicopter picks up water to fight the blaze on Sunday. Right: A helicopter drops a payload of water onto the fire on Sunday. PHOTOS BY CARLOS DE LA ROSA. and reported about 2 acres in light to medium brush burning slowly in awesterly direction towards the Black Jack Tower. They touched down at a safe location and deployed a Fire Camp crew of eight personnel who immediately started cutting a control line or fuel break in front of the advancing flames. Copter 17 then went to Helispot 55A at Pebbly Beach and began loading up with water to drop along the advancing head ,of the fire to knock it down and aL, so protect the Camp crews. between 300 350 gallons of chain saws to fight fire. When they water at a time depending on how are joined by an engine company much fuel they have on board, stretching hose lines the fuefight- When Engine 155 arrived ing potential of both is greatly from Two Harbors they were amplified. assigned to work with the Fire As the twilight fog started Crews along the long flank or rolling in three helicopters scat- hypotenuse of the triangle. The tered in the wind before they got Dr. Jim FAMILY DENTISTRY Serving Catalina Island . with a stalk! 4301 ATLANTIC AVE LONG BEACH (562) 426-9308 Islanders- 15% discount with this adl quickly as they came they returned to their mainland roosts to fly and fight fire another day. In Los Angeles County we've become firm believers that getting "iron in the air" is one of the best ways to combat wildfires. By 6:30 p.m. the fire was knocked down and no longer -posed a threat. However, several hours of hard arduous man hours remained to finish cutt'mg a con- trol line completely around the fire and to cool down all the hot spots still smoldering. Two hand crews were left behind to accomplish this mission, Crew 8-1 from Mal- ibu and Crew 9-1 from Santa Clarita. At 10 p.m. as they wrapped things up they were confronted with the prospect of spending the night in the cold foggy damp wilderness of Catalina. Although they've probably had worst nights to remember Avalon Fire came to the rescue. Captain Meffort volunteered 20 cots and blankets for the crews out of his emergency supply trail- er and both crews spent the night at Fire Station 55 where they were able to shower, eat, wash their clothes and most importantly sleep on a soft cot under a warm blan- ket. The Sheriff's Department, the CERT Volunteers and the Conser- vancy Rangers kept traffic to a minimum. Meanwhile, Avalon Reserve Firefighters helped out including Mayor Bob Kennedy, who brought sandwiches up to the guys for their logistical support. Although this was not the big one or the bad one, all agencies came together to get the job done.