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Heat, wind, and drones: The challenges in fighting the Sand Fire




The Sand Fire burns intensely off Placerita Canyon Rd Sunday afternoon as a media vehicle races away from flames. 


The Sand Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest Sunday July 24th, 2016 under a Red Flag Warning high high winds. The fire had burned 22,000 acres by Sunday morning and was 10% contained as firefighters battled low humidity, shifting wind, and high temperatures. An unknown number of structures were lost.
The Sand Fire burns intensely off Placerita Canyon Rd Sunday afternoon as a media vehicle races away from flames. The Sand Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest Sunday July 24th, 2016 under a Red Flag Warning high high winds. The fire had burned 22,000 acres by Sunday morning and was 10% contained as firefighters battled low humidity, shifting wind, and high temperatures. An unknown number of structures were lost.
Stuart Palley for KPCC

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A wildfire that started Friday in the canyons around Santa Clarita has now forced the evacuation of some 20,000 area residents. An army of firefighters have been hampered by hot, dry weather, and rough terrain covered with brush that's been turned into tinder by years of drought.

https://twitter.com/LACoFireAirOps/status/756853772463112192

Gustavo Medina, inspector for LA County Fire, explained the main obstacles in battling the massive blaze.

Heat

Southern California has been smacked with extreme heat since the fire erupted on Friday. The brush is "primed" because most of it has not burned in about 30 years, Medina explained. California's ongoing drought isn't helping, either.

Winds

 "The fact that the fire is continuously getting pushed by the winds doesn't help us," Medina said. The winds have been spreading embers across the area, and red flag warnings are expected to continue until 12 p.m. Monday.

Terrain

"There's areas where it's difficult or inaccessible to ground personnel to get in there," Medina said. Hence the two-pronged attack from the air and land.

Drones

A drone spotted in the area of the fire fight halted efforts at one point over the weekend. "When it comes to flying a drone in an emergency operational area, it really hinders our job, and it really prevents us from doing what we're here to do: fight fires," Medina said. Sometimes fire fighting aircraft can be grounded for hours because of the presence of a personal drone. "It's a huge back-breaker," he said.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.