Expected Containment Date For Holy Fire Pushed Back to Sunday

LAKE ELSINORE (CNS) - The Holy Fire burning in the Cleveland National Forest was to have been 100 percent contained today, but the full-containment target has been pushed back to Sunday, mostly because the burn area includes spots that firefighters are finding hard to reach as they carry out the “tedious” work needed to bring their 16-day struggle to a close.

The Orange County Fire Authority is asking anyone who may have been in the Holy Jim Canyon area around the time the fire broke out to contact an investigator.

Firefighters had hoped to fully contain the blaze by Tuesday, but “we bumped that back to (Sunday), mainly just because the terrain is so inaccessible,” said Jake Rodriguez, a U.S. Forest Service public information officer.

The fire is 92 percent contained, having blackened 22,887 acres in Orange and Riverside counties and damaged or destroyed 24 structures since it erupted early on the the afternoon of Aug. 6 near Holy Jim and Trabuco Creek roads, Rodriguez said.

The 324 firefighters assigned to fire Monday mainly focused on “fire suppression rehab,” which involves filling in pits made by bulldozers to slow down flames, Rodriguez said.

“There's not a whole lot of action going on in terms of fire activity,” Rodriguez said.

The bulldozed fire breaks sometimes lead to trails or makeshift roads that need to be camouflaged or removed to keep hikers from areas that shouldn't be accessible to the public, Rodriguez said. Also, there's miles of fire hose to haul back in, and there are “some pockets” of vegetation that can produce some smoke, but little threat, he said.

“It's never over till it's over,” Rodriguez said. “It's going to be a marathon to close it all up, but the heat of the battle is over now. It's the more tedious work now to get it all buttoned up and secure.”

The OCFA asked anyone who may have been in the Holy Jim Canyon area on Aug. 6, around the time the fire began, to contact Investigator Lackey at (714) 573-6700 or (714) 573-6709.

A Burned Area Emergency Response Team began work Monday to identify threats to the burn area from rains and what can be done reduce them. The team includes hydrologists, botanists, biologists and road engineers, Rodriguez said.

Photo: Getty Images

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