Saturday, September 04, 2010

Close call

A Placerville family is safe this afternoon after a wildland fire damaged their home on Missouri Flat Road. The fire was sparked by a malfunctioning catalytic converter, according to FOX40 News at 5:30 P.M. Firefighters contained the fire before it grew out of hand.

The fire had the potential to destroy a number of homes in the vicinity. At one point, the CHP Traffic Incident Information Page reported that it was evacuating Halyard Lane to the northeast of the fire. The fire had the potential to wipe out about a dozen historic California Door Company mill homes on Wedge Hill.

Units from the Diamond Springs-El Dorado Fire Protection District (DSP), El Dorado County Fire Protection District (ECF), Rescue Fire Protection District (RES) and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) responded to the incident. DSP Fire Chief Todd Cunningham was on the scene. While I'm not certain, he may've been the incident commander.

A cell phone call by my daughter alerted me to the fire shortly after 1 p.m. She encountered the CHP blockade at Forni Road while traveling south on Missouri Flat. Christen deduced from drifting smoke and a circling helicopter that a fire in the area caused the road closure.

Little did Christen know that she awakened the fire photographer in me. While I don't desire any loss of life or property, there's a certain sense of excitement when a fire occurs in the area. (I'm certain that excitement would turn to panic if my home was threatened by an advancing wildland fire.)

Bright yellow Nomex fire suits, polished red fire engines and drifting smoke all come together to make for great photography. Add a long camera lens and plenty of action and you have the potential for award-winning photographs. Although I've not received any awards for any of my photography, it's personally exciting to produce colorful photographs that are full of action.

In the past three years I've chanced upon four incidents that have given me the opportunity to "play" fire photographer. They include the 49er and Palmer fires in 2007. The 49er burned within two miles on my home. I also caught aircraft action at Dawson helispot and on the Clay Fire in 2008. Today was my first opportunity in two years to photograph a fire.

Here's a sampling of the pictures that I captured this afternoon:

The fire damaged the south side of the house, which was originally built for mill workers employed by the California Door Company. Shortly after I took this picture, I saw firefighters dragging smoldering objects from the interior of the house.

Firefighters assigned to Engine 2761 mop up hot spots on Wedge Hill. The CalFire engine is based at Station 20 in Camino. The headquarters of the Amador-El Dorado Unit (AEU) of CalFire is located at Station 20.

A firefighter assigned to AEU Engine 2771 just shut off the reel hose from the engine. You can see water dripping from the nozzle when you enlarge the picture. E2771 is quartered at Station 43 at the El Dorado Wye.

Water Tender 46 dwarfs E2771 during the mop up stage of the fire. Three water tenders supplied much needed water to the units on the scene.

A FOX40 cameraman interviews DSP Assistant Fire Chief Erik Peterson. The television station only ran a 10- or 15-second video of the fire as the second story at 5:30 p.m. The chief's interview was omitted from the coverage.

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