Resources strained in Willow Fire

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Over 1500 people have been battling the Willow Fire near Bass Lake. It has taken a highly coordinated effort to get personnel into areas where they can be most effective.

10 aircraft and a helicopter have been continuously flying in and out of the Fresno Air Attack Base to refuel and refill their tanks with fire retardant. Over 170,000 gallons of retardant has already been dumped on the Willow Fire. John Harpain of the US Forest Service said the steep terrain, dry conditions and high heat have made this firefight a difficult one.

Harpain is the air tanker base manager. He said, "The light aircraft, the air attack platforms, they fly higher above the fire. They're working with the ground forces and developing a plan with the incident commander."

Another strike team mobilized to join the effort. A five engine team from Fresno city and county, Clovis, Los Banos and Merced has moved into place to prepare for Friday when back fires were expected be set to try to limit the fire's progress.

Strike team leader Tim Garrison of the Reedley Fire Department explained, "Within the containment lines they've already established they will burn off that from those containment lines and create a buffer between the fire and the actual containment lines."

Garrison said the Willow Fire has reached a critical point. "I would say probably in the next two days if this thing doesn't turn around for the good we could potentially get into an "o" burn of 2001 which will create some issues."

That fire burned out of control around the area crews were trying to protect.

The strike team figured to be in place for at least 14 days but hoped the constant attack through the air and the ground can make significant progress. They also expected to be assigned to structure protection in the South Fork and North Fork areas.

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