Sep 25, 2013 11:36 PM by John Reger

GQ: What do the words "containment" and "control" mean in fighting wildfires?

Whenever we cover wildfires, like the one in Cayucos yesterday, we use the same words to report on the progress of firefighters. That prompted this question: What do the terms "containment" and "control" mean? Good Question.

Crews first attack a wildfire by creating fire lines around its perimeter, wide enough so the fire can't jump across them. These lines are built by removing flammable deadwood and undergrowth down to the soil level or by digging trenches, either by hand or bulldozer.

When firefighters estimate they have 50 percent containment, they mean there are fire lines around half the fire. It is still expanding along the other half of it's boundaries.

100 percent containment means fire lines have been built around all of the fire. It's still burning *inside the fire lines and that's where crews now attack.

A fire is "controlled" when there's no risk of it expanding beyond the fire lines, even factoring in possible high winds. It may take weeks and help from mother nature to actually put out the fire.

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