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Jawbone fire 45 percent contained, threatens hundreds of wind turbines  

Credit:  BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer | The Bakersfield Californian | www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com 15 August 2012 ~~

A huge change to favorable weather Wednesday helped firefighters gain the upper hand on the Jawbone Complex.

By nightfall crews had the 1,987-acre Jawbone Fire 100 percent contained. The bigger Rim Fire, at 10,478 acres, was 70 percent contained.

“The wind died down. The weather was favorable for us. The wind wasn’t pushing the fire anymore,” fire information officer Angie Goldman said. The “extreme fire behavior” had dissipated.

Still, about 1,178 personnel remain on the lightning-sparked blaze that began Friday 20 miles north of Mojave.

“The best part is we are reaching our containment goals and guys are in there starting to mop up,” Goldman said. That means crews are working 100 to 200 feet inside fire lines to extinguish hot spots and make sure flames don’t creep beyond fire lines. Dozers and hand crews are on scene.

Goldman advised the public will still see smoke for quite a while. Full containment is estimated to be reached Saturday.

Significant developments include:

* A firefighter suffered minor injuries when he was hit in the head with a tree limb. He was airlifted to Kern Medical Center, where he was treated and released.

* The fire forced the closure of the Pacific Crest Trail from Highway 58 to the Sequoia National Forest boundary.

* The fire is burning in the middle of three wind parks, said Jim Wilkins, a spokesman for the incident team. It threatened hundreds of wind turbines, damaged at least three and forced others offline.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has turbines on an 8,000-acre wind farm called the Pine Tree Wind Power Project. The night the fire started, it was asked to take some of its turbines offline, a department spokeswoman said. Since then, 45 have gone offline at some point.

As of Wednesday morning, its turbines were working again and none had been damaged; the department had no update later in the day.

The three wind turbines known to have burned belong to NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. based in Juno Beach, Fla.

Steven Stengel, a NextEra spokesman, said Tuesday the company hadn’t been able to gain access to its wind farm to fully assess damage. He did not have an update on damage Wednesday.

* The Jawbone Complex fire is one of a rash of blazes across California that has 8,000 state, local and federal firefighters occupied. As such, Cal Fire issued a statewide burn ban effective until the end of the fire season or until there is a significant change in the weather. A burn ban means residential burn permits, forest management or other types of normally permitted burning are prohibited.

“We’re banning all burning so that there are no accidental fires,” said Julie Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.

Campfires are still allowed in organized campgrounds or private property. But if conditions get worse, campfires could be banned, as well, Hutchinson said.

“No one should be starting an open fire, and everyone should exercise extreme caution,” she said.

Source:  BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer | The Bakersfield Californian | www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com 15 August 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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