In the Thick Of the 'Day Fire'

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Web Exclusive: Adam Talks with Firefighters Battling the Blaze

Sept. 28, 2006

It feels like standing in a bank of tule fog, or ground fog. The white smoke is enveloping what's left of the low-growing brush and any car that dare attempt to part it. A light breeze, or the tailwind of a fire truck, swirls the eerie air -- the visibility more reminiscent of a light snowstorm in the middle of the night.

Our live location is about 12 miles west of Interstate 5, the main north/south freeway through the heart of California. We are alongside a country road; a blacktop strip that now matches the color of the once-brushy wilderness on either side.

Periodically, fire trucks come down various adjacent forest roads and park near us alongside the road. Even if only for an hour or two, firefighters get a brief rest here before heading back up the hill to the battle. As one tells me, "this fire is getting a bit frustrating for firefighters and for residents. It just doesn't want to end."

His frustration can easily be understood when you consider this fire (the so-called Day Fire), has been burning since Labor Day, and will likely burn into October. Already at a cost of $57 million dollars, 4,000 firefighters continue to do all they can to save homes and get some sort of line around the flames.

The topography makes this one particularly tough. A local rancher explains, "most people around the country may not realize this is some of the most rugged land in the country — one area looks like a mini Grand Canyon."

That would explain why at times firefighters just stand and watch the power of Mother Nature. There are many places so steep, so rough — you can't even safely hike them.

Air support has become an important weapon due to this type of terrain. As fire trucks returning from the flames rumble by, massive helicopter tankers vibrate the ground below. From a distance, they look like yellow, mechanical dragonflies, dropping water on the flames jumping from peak to pinnacle below.

All the while, the burnt residue from a fire that has become one of California's largest, longest and most frustrating, blankets most of the state. The smoke burns our nose, and schools miles away have cancelled recess and sporting events due to poor air quality.

Sept. 27, 2006

From the moment the sun peeks over the Sespe Wilderness, until the time it sinks into deep blue Pacific waters, the sky is orange, and at times the sun glares red over the fields and orchards of Southern California.

The spectacular colors are not without cause. They arise from a battle with Mother Nature that began three weeks ago. Nearly 140,000 acres have burned due to flames from the so-called "Day Fire."

Someone asked me, "How do they decide on the fires' names?"

Generally, fires are named after a landmark pointed out by the first crew on the scene — for example a river, or a campground name. In this case, the "Day Fire" was one of two that flared over the Labor Day holiday. The first fire was dubbed "The Labor Fire" for obvious reasons. The second has become a monster of a blaze.

The size is so large that it remains hard to explain. Our live location was wedged between a lemon orchard and a strawberry field in the historic town of Saticoy, California, a stone's throw from Ventura.

We chose this spot because it gives an amazing perspective of the fire's size. The entire ridgeline was blanketed with smoke and flaring flames, and it seemingly stretched for miles.

The spot also had good background visibility (so you could see the fire and smoke on camera), plenty of firefighters available for interviews, and accessible to set up fast.

So far, this fire has burned more than 220 square miles and has cost in excess of $37 million dollars — and that figure doesn't include the at least six other large fires raging here in the Golden State.

When I tell friends and viewers that we are smack-dab in the middle of fire season, and we likely won't get any measurable rain until late October to early November, they are surprised.

Sometimes people far away from California may not realize that our rainy season basically ends late in April or very early in May. For the next five months we are dry. Unlike in other parts of the country where summer storms are common, summertime here usually means low humidity, high temperatures, and afternoon breezes. By September, that creates a historically fire-friendly climate. We are in that now, but hopefully we won't see many more "Day" Fires.

Adam Housley joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 2001 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. Most recently, Housley reported from Nicaragua and El Salvador on the war against drugs and scored an exclusive interview with Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega. Click here to read his bio.

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.