Saving Condor Station is California Firefighter's Birthday Present
Paul Gaines, who estimated he has spent half of his last 24 birthdays working to stop forest fires, used all his experience to save the Hopper Ranch used as a monitoring and release station for the California condor. Sizing up the ranch, he determined that he could safely protect it during the oncoming fire storm of the Ranch Fire. As Santa Ana winds raged to 60 miles per hour and embers rained, he burned out around the ranch and used on site water to save it. During the intense two hours it took the fire to pass and then the next eight more to cool, Gaines was ever vigilant with hose and shovel keeping the embers from starting the ranch on fire.
As daylight came the morning of October 22nd Gaines noted two things; one the successful save of the Hopper Ranch, and, secondly, his birthday. "This was the most rewarding birthday fire I've ever had... saving something that means a lot" said Gaines, who added "all we hear is what was lost, it's nice to see what was saved like the condor facility". The sweetness of the save was all the more important to him after losing a fellow firefighter earlier this season with whom he had worked at the Carmel Hills Station operated by Cal-Fire.
Hopper Ranch serves as a monitoring and release station for the endangered California condor. From the ranch condors raised in captivity are released onto the Sespe Condor Sanctuary located on the Los Padres National Forest and then monitored both visually and with radio transmitters to see how well they are doing. Currently biologists are optimistic about the nesting success and fledgling survival of the condors within the refuge now that the Ranch Fire has passed.