Improving Weather Helps Ground Crews at Camp Fire, but Firefighters Still Can’t Fly

CHICO -- East of Chico, the Camp Fire has slowed its spread but it’s far from out.

“We have engines in place to protect in case any spot fires go across the line,” Mountain View Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeff Cole said.

Cole spoke to FOX40 on Friday south of Deer Creek Highway, where the Camp Fire is burning in steep terrain.

“We’re at the bottom of a canyon, it’s a drainage area,” Cole told FOX40. “There’s random houses spread out through this area.”

But Cole says there’s been a major shift in the weather, creating an inversion.

“Think of it as just a cap over the ground,” Cole said.

That “cap” prevents embers from spreading.

“There’s not enough thermal lifting to punch that heat and smoke from the fire up into the higher levels of the atmosphere,” Cole said.

That’s created a good news-bad news situation.

The good news is that it’s easier to fight fire when it’s cold and perfect for setting backfires, which helps get rid of fuel for the wildfire.

The bad news is smoke and cloud cover means aircraft can’t fly.

“Because visibility is far too low, and it’s too hazardous to fly aircraft,” Cole said.

By Friday evening, the Camp Fire claimed the lives of at least nine people and burned about 140 square miles -- much of the destruction in the town of Paradise.