Monday, August 17, 2015

Cuesta Fire - Day Two - Trip One

This afternoon my mother and I (with me riding shotgun in her car) drove down to see the nearby 2,000-acre Cuesta Fire burning in the Cuesta Grade area of the local stretch of the Santa Lucia Range in the Los Padres National Forest. The fire flared up this afternoon from the afternoon winds that firefighters feared would come. The result was the fire spotted over the ridgeline east of Highway 101 and uphill from it and fully implaced itself within the national forest after starting in State Responsibility Area (SRA).

Once we got word of the escape we rushed down from my house in Paso Robles. Actually, we drove down to view the fire twice today separated by a short break at her home in Atascadero. Both times we took the 101 Freeway down to San Luis Obispo and turned around at Monterey Street and returned in the bumper-to-bumper traffic headed up the Cuesta Grade. This slowness allowed us to get a great view of it without stopping along the route to take pictures which the CHP was discouraging by way of sentinel units holding watch along the length of the grade. From there we pulled off the freeway at Highway 58 and headed into Santa Margarita to check on fire preparations there as the fire approached.

What follows are images I captured as a passenger in a car shown in the order I took them. I am dividing up the two trips today into two separate blog posts but I am linking them together for easy reference. See Cuesta Fire - Day Two - Trip Two

Note: one of the lenses I use with my camera has a noticeable scratch which shows up on some images. I cannot currently afford to replace it so please bare with my flawed images until then.

Southbound Highway 101 adjacent to Santa Margarita Ranch on the left and Eagle Ranch on the right.
Two Bell-206 Huey's, one sporting a "bambi bucket" and the other a snorkel.
Santa Barbara County FD and Sheriff's Department Copter 308 (one of six operated by the county) leaving a pond adjacent to Highway 101 north of the Cuesta Grade on the northbound side as viewed from southbound.
A SLO Co. FD water tender at left, a Cuesta Crew bus at center, and Kern County dozer strike team's two dozer transports at right, all on the northbound bide of Highway 101 at the summit.
Tanker 912 which is a DC-10 which type tanker is referred to as a VLAT (Very Large Airtanker).
An LPF engine (Los Padres National Forest).
A strike team of  CALFIRE Type-2 crew buses (Miramonte Camp in Tulare Unit CALFIRE).
A strike team of type-3 engines from CALFIRE's Fresno-King Unit along with a private water tender.
Fire burning up and over the ridgeline. The dark smoke at left was from a run the fire made to the top of the ridge but did not slop-over. The lighter smoke to the right is from a major slop-over from the segment of the fire further north. Mt. Lowe Road traverses the mountainside.
Lead plain cruising along the ridgeline.
Santa Barbara County Engine 330.
The aforementioned strike team of FKU type-3 engines.
Fire retardant-painted mountainside.
Active flames in grass along the side of the freeway.
Active flames in brush along the side of the freeway.
Copter 901 (UH-1H Super Huey)
Structure protection resources began pooling up in Santa Margarita by this time as the fire approached.
Cattle being evacuated on the south side of Santa Margarita as the fire approached.
All images by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved)

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