UPDATE 8/16/2016 6:30 PM:
KION has obtained a so-called Cal Fire green sheet regarding the death of a bulldozer operator. It’s an informational summary report used as a safety and training tool to prevent future incidents. It includes preliminary information about the bulldozer accident that killed 35-year-old Robert Reagan III of Fresno County.
Preliminary findings state on July 26 at around 11 p.m., Reagan was trying to get to an area on Green Ridge Road where a fire line was supposed to be built. He had to reverse and turned to travel down an embankment toward a lower roadway but instead rolled the dozer.
Fire personnel who witnesses the crash responded and determined he was dead. The report said preliminary evidence indicated he may not have been wearing a lap-style seat belt and the left door to the cab may have been left open.
Green Ridge Road is described as a single-lane dirt road. Those types of roads are common in the area. They make it difficult to get crews and resources to needed areas. It’s just one of the challenges fire crews are encountering.
"Ventana Wilderness is a very unique area obviously and one of the reasons its unique is you have some very rugged terrain, steep slopes and significant fire history in the area as well," said Bill Murphy, a Cal Fire public information officer.
Maps at the Toro Park Base Camp illustrate how steep some of the areas are. It includes peaks like Pico Blanco.
"Pico Blanco is an example,” Murphy explained. “You've got an elevation starting at 250 meters above sea level, rising to almost 1,000 meters. So, rough conversion here, you're talking 750 feet rising to almost 3,000 feet."
For the areas not accessible on the ground, crews rely on help from above. Aircraft are dropping water or retardant on the fire to slow the spread. The weather has been hit and miss, depending on where crews are.
"So you could have one side of the fire where it's 60 degrees and the fog, another side of the fire could be 100 degrees with very low relative humidity," Murphy said.
The fire is burning differently than the Clayton Fire in Lake County. Since starting on Saturday, more than 4,000 acres have burned but the fire is 20 percent contained. The fire has also burned more than 175 homes, unlike the Soberanes Fire, which has burned more than 50.
“You've got that fire that moved out of that wildland environment and directly into the case of Lower Lake area, a developed town,” Murphy said. “In the case of the Soberanes Fire, the fire burned through more of a true intermix environment, where it's home's out and actually on the hillsides, out amongst the redwoods, very dense brush. You have that in both areas but the big difference is fuel types that you see here and there."
The Soberanes Fire is burning brush and redwoods, while the Clayton Fire is burning oak woodland.
Crews on the Soberanes Fire are expecting erratic fire conditions in the coming days and say the southern portion of the fire has the potential to grow. Crews are looking at existing containment lines from previous fires to help them stop the Soberanes Fire.
Crews fighting the Soberanes Fire are facing challenges unique to the Central Coast.
From microclimates to limited access to roads, firefighters say they're chipping away at containment but it hasn't been easy.
As of Tuesday, August 16 more than 76,000 acres have burned and containment is at 60 percent.
KION's Mariana Hicks speaks with fire crews about those challenges. We'll also learn more about the deadly crash killing a bulldozer driver while working on the fire.