Hello, Idyllwild. News Editor’s note: Since Wednesday morning, I have been trapped in Banning. I did return to Idyllwild yesterday afternoon and this morning. Below are some observations and notes from conversations with many of the firefighting teams.
The Cranston Fire began Wednesday morning and quickly endangered the town, near the Idyllwild Arts Academy. It spread east below Doubleview Drive. By Thursday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown had declared a state of emergency in Riverside County because of this blaze.
Later Thursday, several homes in the Deer Foot neighborhood burned.
As of Saturday morning, the Cranston Fire was about 13,100 acres and containment about 17 percent. Friday was a very good day for firefighters.
On Thursday night, the California Incident Management Team 1, a Type 1 team, took command of the fire. The Incident Commander is Jerry McGowan; this is their first assignment this year.
From the fire map, distributed this morning, there are good control lines along the southern boundary to Idyllwild. The biggest threat today will be to the east along South Ridge. The afternoon heat map makes this point, showing intense fire still burning along South Ridge and the very southeast edge of the fire in Garner Valley. This will be one of the day’s priorities, according to Marc Peebles, the incident public information officer. There is a photo below, too.
The IMT morning report described the South Ridge situation as: “Fire is hung up on South Ridge and will look for ways to back through retardant lines in the very dry fuels, requiring ground and air support for protection of the town of Idyllwild.”
Despite yesterday’s success, the lifting of evacuation notices has not even begun to be discussed. The South Ridge area still poses a threat to the town. “Be patient and grateful,” that’s the advice today. However, residents who live north of McGovern Road in Pine Cove are being allowed back with ID.
On Thursday, the fire raced into the Apple Canyon community and Garner Valley. Fire teams have been able to establish bulldozer lines there and will be working to strengthen those.
San Jacinto Ranger District Fire Manager Freddie Espinoza described Friday’s work as “the right place in the right order.”
A command post and small town have been established in Garner Valley, about the same location as the one for the 2013 Mountain Fire. More than 1,300 firefighters are already battling this blaze. More might have been assigned, except there are several other major conflagrations in California, including the Carr Fire near Redding.
Here is brief list of the participating agencies:
Idyllwild Fire Department
U.S. Forest Service, San Jacinto District, Angeles National Forest
U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Cal Fire, California Office of Emergency Services, California Highway Patrol
California Conservation Corps, California State Parks
Riverside County Fire, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
Anaheim Fire Department, Contra Costa County Kern County
Los Angeles County, Monterey County, Newport Beach Fire
San Bernardino County Fire, San Jacinto Police Department
Santa Barbara Fire, Toulumne Rancheria Fire Department
Ventura Fire Department
The local Mountain Area Safety Taskforce Plan has been an important guide for combating this fire, according to many fire officials. Also many of the local Forest Service, and county fire and emergency people are grateful for the IMT use and reliance on local resources and knowledge.
The fuelbreaks created around Idyllwild have been credited with accomplishing their task. Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz felt “Idyllwild dodged a bullet [as of Thursday].” He credits great firefighting, an aggressive air attack, and the fuelbreaks.
The air attacks have included nine helicopters and three air tankers, including the huge 747.
The Cranston Fire started 10 days after the fifth anniversary of the Mountain Fire. Ironically, the areas burned in the earlier fire have been torched again, but with substantially less-dangerous fuel, this has helped firefighters this week.
As of Saturday, there have only been two reported injuries and both were minor. One firefighter incurred a shoulder injury and the other was heat-related. Neither required hospital attention, according to James Gannon, a PIO with the team. He knows the Hill from being on the BLM California Desert District in Moreno Valley.
While fighting fire and protecting town, the Idyllwild Fire Department is still responsible for medical emergencies and there have been a few since Wednesday.