Heat Wave Could Hinder Calif. Firefighters

July 7, 2008 10:02:53 PM PDT
The National Weather Service has issued a heat warning with the potential for fire starting Tuesday afternoon in the North Bay mountains and East Bay hills.

The mood of the firefighters has improved because of low winds and high humidity. This past weekend, firefighters managed to increase the containment lines and now have the fire 18 percent contained. But, they are concerned that the weather will betray them on Tuesday, as high temperatures and winds may take away some of the gains they've made in the past two weeks.

The Basin Complex fire near and around Big Sur has blackened some 77,000 acres and it's still going. More than 2,300 firefighters are struggling to contain the fire that has already destroyed 23 structures since it started two weeks ago. Lightning strikes are the cause of the fire that has spread from Carmel Valley to Lucia. 31 miles of Highway 1 have been closed to traffic from Point Sur Naval Base to Lucia.

Today, fire crews are building containment lines around homes that are still being threatened by the crawling flames. Firefighters tell us that they are going to let these small areas of flame burn themselves out. What worries them now is a fire weather watch advisory for Tuesday and the rest of the week, as temperatures are expected to rise and the humidity to fall.

"Under hotter and drier and windy circumstances, this could actually become much more severe with more and extreme fire behavior, more in the canopy, more threatening to structures and the highway. So, while we are still trying to get people back in their homes as soon as we can and get the highway open again, as you can see, there are still areas like this that are hazardous and remain a threat," says fire information officer Rudy Evanson.

Some residents who decided not to obey the mandatory evacuation orders are angry that firefighters won't let them return to their homes if they leave for any reason, but officials say the fire is still too unpredictable to lift the evacuation order. We've talked to firefighters, who say full containment of this fire won't be until the end of July.


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