LOVELAND RESERVOIR, Calif. (KGTV) - With Santa Ana winds in the forecast for Wednesday morning, Cal Fire stationed more than 500 firefighters in strategic spots to attack any hot spots that flared up in the Valley Fire burn area.
The plan worked.
Crews were able to recognize hot spot fires quickly and direct resources to fight them before early morning winds spread the flames across Lawson Valley.
One flare-up started on a mountain peak just northeast of Loveland Reservoir. That area burned on Saturday, but Barona Fire Department Chief Ken Kremensky said embers stayed hot enough under the tree canopy to reignite Wednesday morning.
"The retardant coats the area," Kremensky explained. "But a lot of times in the heavier brush it lays along the top of the brush and it doesn't penetrate all the way the ground so there's hot stuff and it creeps in there. And once it creeps through the retardant, it gets into that open field starts to spread. If you get some wind on it and it picks up, you see the flame starting to show up."
The fire was in a remote area that would take hand crews hours to reach. So, Cal Fire sent in a squad of helicopters.
Helicopters from San Diego Gas & Electric, Cal Fire and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department took turns dousing the flames with water for nearly an hour, making multiple passes and filling up with water from the reservoir.
After they left, military helicopters took over. By 11 a.m., the fire was mostly out.
"We'll just keep plugging away and hopefully the weather will cooperate with us and that'll be a good success," said Kremensky.
Heavy winds never materialized, with gusts in the fire zone topping out at 30 miles an hour. Crews were able to handle several other hot spots that ignited and keep the flames within the fire perimeter.
Kremensky said they were fortunate that the weather cooperated.