Early on in every fire season, there is an incident or two in Three Rivers that tests the mettle of Cal Fire and its cooperating agencies. The most recent challenge occurred Monday, July 1, when a fire broke out at 3 p.m. southeast of St. Anthony Retreat. The fire began near a small cluster of three houses east of the Bureau of Land Management land and the Skyline Drive trailhead.
Air tankers based in Porterville made some key drops that stopped the fire from burning any nearby homes or outbuildings. Battalion Chief Andy Turner said having the National Park Service helicopter dip water from the nearby BLM ponds made a critical difference in stopping the blaze before it could jump the Salt Creek trail and move up slope to Case Mountain.
“The two helicopters we used to make water drops while the tankers dropped retardant is what saved our bacon,” said Chief Turner. “There was huge potential here for the fire to resist suppression.”
Chief Turner said that firefighters remained on scene until midnight and then returned the following day to complete the mop-up work.
“The clearance that was done prior to this fire established a line of demarcation that predictably was where the fire stopped,” Chief Turner said. “Had that weed eating not been done there could have been some tragic losses.”
There were 75 personnel from three agencies — Cal Fire, Tulare County Fire, and the National Park Service — that battled the wildland fire. Resources included two helicopters, two air tankers, two bulldozers, and a dozen engines.
It appears that the blaze was human-caused, but Cal Fire is investigating further to determine the fire’s origin.
Photos by Ethan Paggi