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08.19.09

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The Breakdown:

During a wildfire, everyone natters on about "containment." Here's what it means.

By Jessica Lussenhop


For its first 36 hours the Lockheed fire was deemed "uncontained," until the status ticked up to "5 percent contained" on Friday. "Contained" means "when we have a line around the fire," says CalFire spokesman Mike Mohler. "We create lines with hand crews, bulldozers, hose lines, anything that we can use. We're using a lot of hand crews because of the terrain."

Five percent containment means that roughly 5 percent of the imaginary border drawn around the blaze has been secured and the fire is not spreading past that line. The other 95 percent of the border is still open and the fire can spread. Once the fire is contained within the ring created by firefighters, then the job of actually putting out the fire trapped in the center begins. "We have to physically go in and put the fire out," says Mohler. The fire is then deemed "within control" once the end is in sight, and then finally upgraded to "controlled" once it's out.


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