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With Containment in Sight, Fire Crews Prepare to Battle Hotspots

Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:10:21 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 20 2013 12:37:58 AM CST
Crews Tackle Pfeiffer Fire in Big Sur

Photo Courtesy: Basil Sanborn

Basil Sanborn took this photo during the Pfeiffer Fire of 2013.

BIG SUR, Calif. - -

With just under 20 percent of the Pfeiffer Fire left to contain, firefighters are transitioning into what's called the mop-up phase. That's where they put out any of the hot spots left behind. We decided to find out why it's an important part of the firefighting process and how they make it happen.

Fire managers said they're making progress. There's just one area left to contain. There's also some hot spots they have to worry about. We got a first-hand look at some technology making it easier for firefighters to target these areas more efficiently.

"Using the latitude and longitude, and what they're looking for is scattered heat, an ash pile," said disabled veteran Jim Kniss and owner of Veteran's Emergency Technical Services.

Kniss knows what it takes to successfully bring the fight against a wildfire to an end. He spent 15 years as a firefighter and then found his calling making incident maps for emergency crews.

"All emergencies, floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes," Kniss said.

He's been doing it for 30 years now using a portable computer and an infrared camera he takes up into a helicopter.

"Basically its trying to find locations that could re-start a fire," Kniss said.

Fire managers working on the Pfeiffer Fire said the information he gathers is critical.

"It shows me as a manager the intensity of the how much are there. You know, on there there's a section where it shows a lot of dots. That means there's a lot of heat there," said Pfeiffer Fire Deputy Incident Commander Dana D'Andrea.

Kinss said he's contracted by Cal Fire and the National Forest Service to give crews direction as they head out to bring the fire to a close.

"To make sure there's no surprises to the firefighters as the fire is moving forward. We're taking care of everything behind it," Kniss said.

Fire managers said by Friday morning they plan to scale back on the number of crews. They're going to build a smaller team of about 100 people who will stay there through Christmas Day.