A chat with the Battalion Chief

Tonight the Weekly drove past roadblocks on Santiago Canyon Road to see the destruction left by the blaze firsthand. What we saw was depressing, but the planes spewing fire retardant overhead were a hopeful sight. Photos will be up before the night's over, we promise are up.

Before visiting the scene, we dropped in on Orange County Fire Authority Batallion Chief Kris Concepcion, who was running on two hours of sleep. Were the firefighters getting enough downtime beneath shifts, we wondered aloud.

"What do you think? Can you see the bags under my eyes?" Concepcion retorted.

“In the 17 years that I've been here, this is one of the largest and most challenging fires to fight,” he said. “It's not just the Santa Ana winds affecting the conditions. There's also low humidity—which keeps the grass dr—and the rough terrain working against us.”

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Currently, the OCFA is working with nearly 600 mutual aid firefighters from surrounding communities in its attempt to control the fire before it does any further damage. Part of Concepcion's frustration comes from lack of equipment. The problem: red tape.

“[Last year] we had requested an additional 100 fire engines, but instead we only got about 20,” said Concepcion.

In Silverado Canyon, nearly 2,000 people have thus far been evacuated from 600 homes, while 250 homes (and roughly 600 people) were evacuated in Modjeska Canyon. Today, the fire department received additional assistance in the form of four air tankers and two helicopters.

The fire is currently 30 percent contained, but as the crews continue working, it is expected to be under control in the next few days.

“We're having to play catch-up, and that's the frustrating part,” Concepcion said. “This fire moved very quickly once it started, so we're here for the long haul.”


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