Fire crew specialists offer insight on Pony Fire

At a community meeting on Tuesday evening at the Pony Senior Center members of the Type II Incident Management Team that arrived Monday for the Pony Fire offered what information they knew about the blaze.

Operations Chief Roger Staats said the objectives for this fire are to get it out, keep it as small as possible and most of all protect the nearby structures. He spent much of the day scouting the perimeter of the fire from the ground, he said, to establish a perimeter and anchor points for the fire. The tactic is called an anchor and flank move, where fire crews start at the tail end of the fire, pinching the sides up to the top where they can cut it off at the head.

“Where we’ve got a good chance to pinch this thing is to work with it, keep it to the east of the river and of any structures that we can before it gets to the University of Indiana geological camp,” said Staats.

With the current available resources Staats said the plan for Wednesday was to set up a “plumbing” system around structures in Mammoth consisting of water pumps, hoses and sprinklers to protect the area and ultimately raise the level of humidity over the next few days. Should the blaze force fire crews to leave the area, they can still leave the water running behind them.

“That’s going to be the best defense that we can offer if things go wrong,” he explained. “If things go right, we’ll have folks there the whole time.”

“The big trigger point for me is if we get any fire on this slope over on the western side, I’m probably going to pull folks out,” Staats said of the box canyon area where Mammoth is located. “It’s not going to be a safe situation.”

Fire behavior specialist Bill Wilkinson said that flight crews had been grounded Monday and Tuesday due to high winds, and visibility was limited by the smoke.

“Before we start really, really aggressively managing the fire, we have to be able to see what we’ve got,” he said.

“The next couple days look like its going to warm up some more, and we hope to get started with some activities here to control this fire,” Wilkinson said.  “With the lighter winds we don’t expect a lot of increase in growth.”

Staats supported Wilkinson’s theory on how the weather will play a factor over the next week, adding that his long-term goal is to not allow the blaze to grow any bigger.

“I don’t know what kind of card’s mother nature is going to throw at me in about four or five days,” he said. “But we’ve got a window coming up and we’re going to try our best to get as far as fast as we can.”

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