LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — Fire behavior analyst, California incident management team 12, Dan O’Connor said both sides of the Green Horn mountains hadn’t seen fires for around 50 years.
“This is a really aggressive fire,” said O’Connor. “When an area lacks fire, it becomes very dense, very overgrown. Overlay a drought and you have really challenging fire behavior.”
Even with fire behavior this temperamental there are certain tools that crews can use to predict it including the terrain itself.
“Are there drainages that line up with the wind? We got dense timber up top, chaparral brush, funnel winds, we consider the fuel type, the tree is it dense timber? Down below you have grass, so all three of those with same wind, same temperature, same relative humidity, different spread rates,” said O’Connor.
O’Connor added that they have forecasters from the national weather service who take a look at weather patterns which can help them assess which direction the fire is going to spread.
“Lake Isabella has very complex weather ecosystem. We have the Mojave Desert not too far away, we have the San Joaquin Valley, different heat sources competing for air. It makes the air very shifty,” said O’Connor.
Then, O’Connor said they’ll overlay where the fire has grown in the past 24 hours with infrared data.
“And we plug that into our models, and we can tell with probability we can tell if it’ll reach this portion, 60 percent, 20 percent and so that gives us timelines,” said O’Connor.
That data comes from the aircraft they fly at night.
"They have an entire heat perimeter, all the way around, and then they have intense heat that is a different unit, it shows scattered heat and also spot fires,” said O’Connor
O’Connor said they’re still well-staffed in the Alta Sierra area. They are concerned about Wofford Heights and keeping a watch on Kernville, because of strong winds that have the potential to push the fire out of containment lines.
If you were wondering why this fire is called the French Fire, it’s because they name a fire based on where it starts and this one started near French Creek.