McCan Fire: Firefighters challenged by wind, steep terrain

Credit: Deren Martinez / KTVB

McCan Fire: Firefighters challenged by wind, steep terrain

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by KTVB.COM

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 7, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 10 at 8:05 AM

FAIRFIELD -- Sporadic, constantly shifting winds and steep, inaccessible terrain are creating unique challenges for firefighters battling two lightning-sparked wildfires.

The McCan Fire and Beaver Creek Fire, burning north of Highway 20 in the Beaver Creek drainage, burned together, creating one very large wildfire that has consumed 8,000 acres so far.

The McCan Fire threatened Soldier Mountain Ski Resort and Soldier Mountain Ranch throughout the day Thursday. Additionally, the fire has been burning dangerously close to cabins, homes, and outbuildings in the area. So far, no mandatory evacuations have been ordered and no structures have burned.

The fires started Wednesday afternoon after a thunderstorm moved through the area.

"There was a lightning strike between 5:00 and 5:30 and my husband was out motorbiking, out measuring some fields and happened to see it hit right over here on the other side, it's called Government Hill," said Nancy Hallowell. "Within minutes there was smoke."

When the fire started, Hallowell and her husband immediately started working to save their property; her husband began bulldozing his own lines to save their home and crops.

"Alfalfa, grain. Everything out here we farm, and of course all the outbuildings and the equipment," said Hallowell. "So yeah, a little scary."

Hallowell's home was in and out of danger all day because of quickly shifting wind, that, at one point pushed the fire directly toward their home.

Fortunately, crews have been able to keep the flames away from homes, and no structures have burned.

"There are some structures in the area," said BLM spokesman Josh Olsen. "We've implemented structure protection on multiple structures."

The unpredictable winds have been giving firefighters fits throughout the day, as firefighters work to halt the flames from both land and air.

Olsen told KTVB that the difficulties in fighting the fire have been two-fold. "This fire has been primarily wind driven and it's been fairly erratic wind conditions too. But a lot of that is influenced by the terrain as well. As you can tell, it's kind of difficult to access."

Because of the rough terrain, an air attack has become especially important in working to save the cabins at Soldier Mountain Ranch. Assisting that effort are two retro-fitted C-130s, with the ability to drop 3,000 gallons of retardant.

Fire crews did expect to get some help overnight.

Firefighters say lower temperatures and higher relative humidity, help slow down the burn.

The BLM estimates they will have the fire contained around 8 p.m. Saturday.

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