Navy sparks fire near Kennedy Meadows

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Posted by Jon on September 17, 2003 at 00:50:06:

In Reply to: fire posted by justanotherdesertrat on September 15, 2003 at 20:30:46:

Device used in a Navy training exercise thought to be the cause of the blaze

Many valley residents spotted the large plume of gray smoke rising from the mountains surrounding Kennedy Meadows Monday afternoon. Shortly before 1 p.m., the U.S. Navy's VX-31 Test and Evaluation Squadron were practicing routine search and rescue exercises and testing for wind strain direction, when a flare sparked a fire in an open field on the east side of the Edgar Ranch, which was sold last December.

"I can't believe they would drop a incendiary device into sage brush," said Mike Edgar.

After the fire started, it spread quickly onto Bureau of Land Management property. The squadron raced to fight the the fire with fire extinguishers.

BLM Metro Engine Crew 3130, along with Kennedy Meadows Engine 3143 Crew were working a few miles away, along Nine Mile Road, cutting the hazardous trees that were burnt and killed in the Manter fire of 2001. Captain Dave Brinsfield said around 1 p.m. the crew had cut about 50 trees when they saw the smoke over the mountain. Shortly after, a Navy crewman called fire agencies to report the fire and led Brinsfield's crew to the exact location.

The land is managed partly partly by the Bakersfield BLM Field Office, with the eastern portion being managed by the California Desert District BLM.

The fire was originally approximately one acre in size, but within an hour, it had engulfed 50 to 60 acres of dry tinder and brush.

By 5 p.m., over 100 firefighters, seven engines, four air tankers, two helicopters, and three water tenders were on hand to battle the blaze.

According to BLM Fire Management and Fire Prevention Specialist Debbie Santiago, the fire had "laid down" by 5 p.m. Also, a Type II management team was on its way for an evening meeting to asess the situation and the condition of the fire in order to make decisions as to how it will be handled in the coming hours.

The Navy and the BLM will be working together in the investigation of the cause of the fire. There were no reports of injuries or structures lost in the fire.

Source: Ridgecrest Daily Independent

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