Firefighters extinguish blaze in redwood trees

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate May 09, 2013 03:27 pm

The old-growth redwood trees in Jedediah Smith State Park that caught fire from lightning earlier this week will be able to remain standing after firefighters extinguished the flames Tuesday evening.

Using 3,000-gallon-bucket water drops by helicopter and about 50 firefighters, Calfire crews were able to knock down flames on a 10-foot-diameter old-growth dead snag on Monday, but a 10-foot-diameter green, living tree continued to burn from Monday to Tuesday, officials said.

Due to heavy fog Tuesday, the Chinook helicopter was unable to continue making bucket drops and was released around noon, but the remaining fires were hard to douse by chopper buckets anyway.

The helicopter water drops were successful at extinguishing flames near the top of the 200-foot-plus-tall old-growth, but fires about 70 feet up in a hollow part of the tree were trickier.

“Seventy feet high in the air there was a pocket of fire that was giving us problems,” said  Tim DeVos, Calfire battalion chief for the Humboldt-Del Norte Unit.

Calfire crews hauled fire hose three-quarters of a mile into the park from the northern end of Parkway Drive in Crescent City.  

“It was very labor-intensive, but we utilized two hand crews to expedite it,” DeVos said.

Calfire officials initially had doubts about spraying water through almost a mile of fire hose and then 70 feet into the air, DeVos said, but through a trial-and-error process using various sizes of hoses and connections, crews were able to hit the high flames.

“It took a bit to fine-tune the hydraulics to get the water pressure right,” DeVos said.

The fire in the northeastern section of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, about three quarters of a mile southeast of the intersection of Route 199 and Parkway Drive, was dubbed the “Kings Fire” and was fought by two Calfire handcrews (15 firefighters each), two engine crews (three firefighters each), and two helicopters. Crescent Fire Protection District provided one water tender on Tuesday.

For the next three days, an engine crew will check and monitor the trees to check for hidden pockets of fire, DeVos said.

“The main objective was to leave those old-growth standing and we were able to accomplish that,” DeVos said.

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