SAN JUAN RIDGE, Calif. August 2, 2017 – The noon hour was busy for firefighters from North San Juan Fire, Nevada County Consolidated, Pike, Ophir Hill, Grass Valley, Tahoe National Forest, Nevada City and CAL FIRE.
The Purdon Fire was reported just before noon by multiple callers, including the homeowner on whose property the fire started. The fire started to put up an ominous black column of smoke, indicative of a structure burning. Dispatch was augmented with multiple engines, water tenders and dozers ordered to the fire after the initial full wildland dispatch. The Tahoe Hotshots were called in. Air Attack requested a total of four tankers and two helicopters.
However, all responses, with the exception of North San Juan, Pike and Cal Fire were delayed. Hwy 49 between Nevada City and North San Juan is being resurfaced, turning a large portion into a one-lane road with traffic control. The two tankers normally stationed at the Grass Valley Air Attack Base were down for maintenance at McClellan.
According to Incident Commander Sean Griffis, if it hadn’t been for a dozer operator punching through one flank of the fire, things might have turned out differently. With only two engines at scene and a home to protect, the dozer operator started cutting a line around the flank of the fire – at times surrounded by flames.
Meanwhile more engines and crews arrived, attacking the fire and corralling it before it could reach the heavy timber. A brush field burned hot and power lines overhead created additional hazards. A large helicopter arrived on scene, cooling down the head of the fire and dousing several spots ahead of the main fire.
Firefighters gained the upper hand and airtankers from Chico and further out were sent back with a full load of retardant.
The fire was fully contained at 1:30 pm and mapped at 2.7 acres. Two outbuildings, two trailers and two vehicles were destroyed, but the home remained intact. At publication time, firefighters were still on scene mopping up and there will be a presence overnight. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Another save by the firefighters, after a long string of fires kept small and a few that just got away. Traditionally, the height of the fire season in the area was September – but no more. Out of the 20 fires in the area in 2017, 18 were human-caused.