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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 3rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 26

Santa Barbara County crews help fight Yosemite's Rim Fire

BY AMY ASMAN


FROM THE FRONT LINES
Members of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department helped fight the Rim Fire for 11 days. Pictured here is an early morning briefing.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

The 30 members of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department (SBCFD) sent to battle the Rim Fire returned home Sept. 2 after an 11-day mission.

“SBC welcomes home our dozer crews that were a part of a Strike Team helping in the fight against the massive fire burning in the Yosemite National Park & Stanislaus National Forest,” officials posted on the department’s Facebook page that evening. “The crews and equipment have entered the county and are en route to their quarters.”

As of press time, the 235,841-acre fire was at 75 percent containment. The InciWeb information hotline reported that exposure and air quality continued to be concerns for fire crews and the public. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Capt. Rob Heckman, the SBCFD strike team leader, described to the Sun in an Aug. 31 interview what working on the fire was like.

The team was assigned to protect structures and maintain fire lines along the Highway 108 corridor between Tuolumne Meadows and the Long Barn area.


CONTINGENCY PLAN
A view of the fire from a strike team bulldozer.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Heckman said his crew used bulldozers to create contingency lines and prevent sparks from landing on cabins. They were assisted by firefighters from Santa Maria and Carpinteria.

“[Our job] is to make sure the fire doesn’t get into the crowns of the trees,” he said. “Once that happens, the fire makes a big run and goes very fast from one tree to another.”

He stressed the importance of defensible space around homes, saying there was a noticeable difference between the amounts of such space surrounding homes in Northern California versus Southern California.

“There needs to be at least a 100-foot buffer,” Heckman said.

He also encouraged people to evacuate when they’re told to. He said when people don’t evacuate, “it takes away from the [firefighting] mission because we’re worried about their life safety.”