By Monday, almost 80,000 acres had burned and tactics in the wilderness had changed dramatically: “We’ve just dumped hundreds of firefighters in this area up here,” said Wayne Wynick on Sunday, pointing to the mountains above the Fillmore fire station. A local resident, Mike Horn, drove up to ask about the fate of some historic cabins near the fire line, wondering whether they could be protected with “slurry,” the pinkish fertilizer-and-dye combination used to retard flames. Wynick let him know that the force and weight of the slurry drop would probably flatten the cabins.
Wynick, a Pennsylvania forester who’d come to Southern California to help disseminate information to the press and public, typically watches over a 2.1-million-acre “Green Certified” forest where the average blaze scorches one and a half acres. (“I know it’s a big one when I have to send out for a second order of hoagies for the crew,” he told me.) But he made it clear that conditions in Southern California required a much different way of thinking. “Helicopters made 22 flights in there supporting rappellers,” he says. “We dropped people on ropes so they could cut out helipads in the vegetation. It was the only practical way to get in there.”