Firefighters battling 'Lake Effect' as crews work to stop Holy Fire from decimating homes

Posted: 10:23 PM, Aug 09, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-10 18:12:49Z
Holy Fire continues to grow
Holy Fire continues to grow
Holy Fire continues to grow

LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. (KGTV) - The "Lake Effect" is changing the way fire crews fight the Holy Fire, adding more challenges to an already difficult battle.

In the neighborhoods that had a front porch view of the flames as they swept down the mountain, families gathered to watch as if it were a block party.

If you listened closely, the crackling sounded like a river running over everything in its path.

RELATED: More than 20,000 evacuated as Holy Fire moves into Riverside County

Overhead, planes and helicopters launched their assault from the air, punctuated with cheers from thankful neighbors. Some drops so close, it looked as if the plane was skimming the roofs.

"Everything is stacked against us except our ability to get our community out," Cal Fire Chief Geoff Pemberton said, noting that this summer has been nonstop for his crews. 

"Our breaks are very short, they’re not what they used to be," he said. "The folks are tired, but they’re pulling up their bootstraps and they’re doing everything they can to protect this community."

INTERACTIVE MAP: Where the Holy Fire is burning

Lake Elsinore is a community surrounded with steep terrain and brush as volatile as a tinderbox.

"This fuel is 50 plus-years-old," Pemberton said. "It’s dry, and it’s got a lot of dead component in it."

On top of the drastically dry conditions, Pemberton said crews are dealing with the "Lake Effect."
"In normal conditions, heat rises and so would a fire. A fire would burn up slope," Pemberton said. "In this area when we get a coastal push of pressure, it spills over the Santa Ana Range and causes it to come down to the Elsinore Valley floor."
Pemberton said they've used the tools they have to protect the neighborhood, attacking the flames from above, and on the ground. 
"We’ve been spending days taking dozers behind the homes," Pemberton said, adding that they bulldozed about a half-mile up the hill to create a fire break.
Pemberton has one request of the community in return for their hard work: that the community respect evacuation orders and leave before it is too late.   
"I shouldn’t have to, after an evacuation order, be putting my troops at risk trying to rescue somebody who didn’t heed an order," he said. "Our community is better than that."