Firefighter planning may save hundreds of homes from Creek Fire

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Firefighters describe the Creek Fire as a worst-case scenario for mountain communities, but one they've planned for.

As drought and dead trees added up, Fresno County firefighters planned for an explosion of fire exactly where it arrived this month.

"We've been working for a few years now on a proactive approach and pre-planning, and also tree mortality task force and putting in fire breaks in and around the mountain communities," said Fresno County Cal-Fire operations chief Chris Bump.

Protecting lives and homes is at the top of the plan, and that meant they needed evacuation plans, led by Fresno County sheriff's deputies who have shifted their attention now to protecting property left behind.

Click here for the latest stories, videos from the Creek Fire.

"We have teams divided up that are doing proactive patrols, going to these areas, putting some eyes to it, seeing if these people are there that are up to no good," said Fresno County sheriff's office spokesman Tony Botti.

Firefighters mapped out the terrain, cut fire breaks, and placed resources where they'd be most helpful even before the fire arrived.

They knew even the best laid plans could go awry, but driving up to Shaver Lake now - in the middle of the fire zone, they say a lot of people could be pleasantly surprised.

"You're going to have anxiety when you get to Cressman and then you'll have your hope restored when you get to Shaver," Bump said.

The fire burned Cressman's General Store and a lot of the homes near it, including most of the neighborhood down Peterson Road, off Shaver Springs.
But just a little ways down the mountain on Shaver Springs Road it's very smoky, and there's fire damage all around, but not one of the houses seems to have sustained any damage from the fire.

The same is true of the stores in Shaver Lake, and a lot of the homes on Musick Falls, Bretz Mill Road, and Ockenden Ranch.

Firefighters are still laying hose line and working for more containment down Tollhouse Road East of Highway 168.

But their operations chief is encouraged by their results so far.

"Losing a single home is unacceptable to them, so their view may be a bit different from mine, you know?" Bump said. "From a larger perspective, this was a heavy lift and under short notice with limited resources. And I don't think the outcome could've been any better with the hand we were dealt."

Cal-Fire has damage assessment teams checking the entire fire zone and they'll post specific damage reports online as they become available.

Click here for the latest stories, videos from the Creek Fire.
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