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Bennett Fire progress slow and steady

Hot spots within the footprint of the Bennett Fire send smoke into the air, slowing full containment of the fire.
Photo: Elias Funez

Firefighters continued to make headway against the Bennett Fire on Friday, although progress slowed somewhat in part due to the persistence of hot spots, authorities said.

As of Friday morning, the Bennett Fire had burned 59 acres and was 75% contained, according to Cal Fire’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit.

Authorities said no one was injured. Building damage is being assessed.



The fire continued to recede but at a somewhat slower rate than the previous two days, largely because of the challenges posed to firefighters by hot spots in the heavily wooded region near Bennett Road and Whispering Pines Lane, where the fire is still active, according to Mary Eldridge, Cal Fire public information officer.

The large quantities of easily flammable lumber in the area, including downed logs, trees, and stumps, have created hazardous conditions for crews attempting to mop up hot spots, Eldridge said. After extinguishing a blaze in a particular part of the woods, firefighters have often had to go back and extinguish a reignited hot spot. Unpredictable and often high winds have also made progress difficult, as the winds often blow lit embers around, potentially creating new fires, she added.



“In the foothills you have both up and down canyon winds, and with the topography of this particular fire there’s a lot of both of these winds…one area of the fire versus another will have different physical characteristics…the wind will depend on that.”

Despite such complications, Eldridge emphasized that firefighters were still making slow but steady progress throughout the day, tearing apart and wetting downed logs to prevent more hot spots from reigniting.

“There’s definitely still been progress today…we have a containment line, we’re bringing in bulldozers to help…it’s just a matter of these hot spots, it just takes time to tear apart the downed logs and prevent more from flaring up.”

QUICK RESPONSE

On Wednesday, Eldridge credited the quick and effective response of numerous law enforcement and fire agencies, as well as the high level of coordination between different departments, in allowing authorities to bring the Bennett Fire under control so quickly.

While the fire expanded rapidly, initially threatening densely populated areas close to downtown Grass Valley, firefighters were able to achieve a 60% level of containment over the blaze just several hours after it started.

“The answer to how this happens has to do with the outstanding relationship Cal Fire has with Nevada County Consolidated Fire, Grass Valley Fire, Ophir Fire,” and others, Eldridge said. “You also have to thank the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Emergency Services for coming into this thing so quick and getting information about zone haven (Nevada County’s evacuation notification portal) out there.”

Because of the quick and effective communication about evacuation areas that was relayed by law enforcement to Grass Valley residents, the evacuation process not only went smoothly but allowed for crucial air support to immediately come in and drop fuel retardant to slow the fire’s advance, Eldridge said, pointing out that this would have been much more difficult if residents were not evacuated from these areas where air units were deployed.

The cause of the Bennett Fire is still under investigation, she added.

Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at swyer@theunion.com


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