Weekend storms could be a mixed blessing for crews battling California’s largest wildfire The blazes are so large that containment zones are a mile wide
For two weeks, two men have been building the world’s largest wooden windmill — a 1.5-story windmill on four legs — so firefighting aircraft can use it to reach the blaze in Santa Cruz Mountains National Park.
The mill, with its blade 30 feet across, was completed last week and will be used to drop water on the flames. After that, firefighters will move the mill into a larger containment zone.
A week later the mill will take on the role of a small-scale air tanker, helping crews reach those fighting the state’s largest fire.
“We’re in a unique, dangerous and challenging time right now in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” said Mark Doms, a fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
“On the first day of the fire, [firefighting aircraft] flew over the fire area. They saw the fire. They saw the wind. And they came to us asking for help.”
The Santa Cruz Mountains National Park has become a key fight for a growing number of California firefighters, as the state’s second-largest blaze burns through forest, mountains, and ranchland.
More than 2,700 personnel, nearly half of them firefighters, have been assigned to the fire, which destroyed more than 20,000 buildings in the foothills and mountains of the Santa Cruz Mountains, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Santa Cruz Mountains are one of the few places in California where forest is not burned. The area is also home to about 140 active volcanoes, including a series of dormant volcanoes located near the fire zone.
“It’s a unique fire,” said Doms, the fire information officer at the U.S. Forest Service. “Normally we see some kind of fire every summer, but the fires have been out of control. There hasn’t been a lot of firefighting for the last few years.
“This may be the most volatile fire we’ve ever had to fight.”
The fire is the most complex and largest California wildfire, according to the fire agency. It is 50