Quick end to fire? Not in the forecast

In this space Tuesday, we noted the slow growth of the Decker Fire from its Sept. 9 start. That scenario changed quickly. Overnight Tuesday, the fire grew from “just” 2,200 acres to 3,700 acres.

We also noted the risk that unexpected severe winds could push the fire to areas where homes are threatened. Through the night Tuesday, sustained winds of 20-30 mph and gusts of 60 mph saw the fire grow by 1,500 acres and into neighborhoods causing the evacuation of some 110 residences.

Chalk this up to the fact that weather conditions can change quickly with fire behavior changing accordingly.

That said, forecasts for the next two weeks are not promising. While there’s a 20 percent chance of precipitation today, the forecast calls for a return next week to what we’ve seen the past month or so.

That is no moisture, breezy conditions, low humidity, minimal cloud cover and brisk winds, “challenging” fire weather, to say the least.

What the forecast adds up to is the Decker Fire will be a tough out.

This is not good news for the 110 families ordered to evacuate their homes early Wednesday. Nor do fire officials have an estimate on when those displaced will be allowed to return to their homes.

And it’s not for lack of effort from firefighters. A Type 1 team has taken over directing the fire. Heavy air tankers, other fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have joined the fight.

On the ground Type 1 hotshot teams are working the fire’s front lines. Over the coming weekend firefighter numbers, currently at about 250, are expected to double.

But with the difficult weather conditions ahead for about the next two weeks, a quick end to the fire is not in the forecast.

At the same time, as happened Tuesday night, conditions can change quickly. Weather and fires can take unexpected directions.

Responding to crisis

Some of those forced to leave their homes as a result of the evacuation order earlier this week are using the basement of United Methodist Church as a headquarters and gathering place. Evacuees have made arrangements for places to stay.

When evacuees will be able to return to their homes is not known. Much depends on the weather and progress firefighters make in the days ahead.

The community response has been remarkable, even for a community that’s known for its generosity in times of crisis. Many have stepped up to offer assistance, most notably United Methodist Church with its offer of a place to gather and Amicas Pizza, which is offering free meals to evacuees.

Other businesses and individuals have offered to care for pets, provided food and personal items, discounts for products and services and other assistance.

Firefighters’ thanks

And special thanks to those folks fighting or involved in other ways in the Decker Fire.

Firefighters working these fires face long hours, stessful and often dangerous and not-so-healthy conditions. If smoke is a bother a few miles from where a fire’s burning, it’s difficult imagining what it’s like on the front lines.

Thanks too to local teams who are providing equipment and manpower to assist at the fire.

Firefighters take on duties which means time away from home and loved ones.

And a tip of the hat to law enforcement staff who notified residents of evacuations and who are now manning road barricades. Providing security is a lonely and boring but necessary job.

– MJB