A battalion chief has joined his colleagues with the Turlock Fire Department, as well as those from the Turlock Rural Fire Department and officers from the Turlock Police Department in the ongoing battle against the wildfires raging in California.
Since a request was sent out last week for mutual aid, personnel from the Turlock fire agencies have been on the frontlines of the Butte Fire that has been racing through Calaveras and Amador counties, while officers were assisting with patrol duties in some of the affected communities. As of Tuesday, one of Turlock’s battalion chiefs was serving as a task force leader for one of the crews.
“We could not do this on the firefighting effort without our local government fire service that participates and contributes to mutual aid,” said California’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci. “We task them and ask them and they answer the call.”
There are currently 12 wildfires burning in California with the Butte Fire, the Rough Fire, and the Valley Fire being the most significant and taking the highest priority, said Ghilarducci. The fires come after a brutal summer season that saw multiple wildfires and stretched resources thin, Ghilarducci said.
Ghilarducci called this fire season “the most extreme” he’s seen in his 30 year career.
The Butte Fire ignited Sept. 9 and as of 6:45 p.m. Tuesday had burned an estimated 71,780 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties. Mandatory evacuation orders and closures in Amador County were lifted Tuesday but remain in place for Calaveras County, according to Cal Fire.
The fire has destroyed 166 residences, 116 outbuildings, and 12 other structures. It’s still threatening 6,400 structures and is 40 percent contained.
Cooler temperatures have allowed for a more effective perimeter control, according to Cal Fire. The blaze continues to be fought aggressively, though the steep topography and the dry conditions from the drought are making the efforts challenging. A total of 4,961 fire personnel have been assigned to the fire.
The Valley Fire, which incorporates Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties has left almost whole communities in ashes and has resulted in the death of one civilian.
The fire started Sept. 12 and has grown to consume 67,200 acres. As of 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was 30 percent contained.
The fire has destroyed 585 homes, though Cal Fire believes that number will rise significantly once crews are able to access more areas. An estimated 9,000 structures remain threatened by the flames.
Four fire fighters sustained burn injuries from the fire and one elderly woman was killed when she was unable to escape her home when it caught on fire.
Evacuation orders remain in place and the focus for the 2,362 fire personnel at the site remains on public safety, structural defense, and perimeter control, according to Cal Fire.
The origin of the fire has been narrowed to the town of Cobb, but the cause remains under investigation.
The largest active fire in California right now is the Rough Fire, which is burning in Fresno County. The fire, which ignited from a lightning strike on July 31, has burned 139,133 acres as of Tuesday morning. It is 40 percent contained.
On Tuesday the mandatory evacuation orders were lifted for the area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire has injured seven fire fighters and destroyed three structures.
For the first time in more than six weeks, firefighters are getting a handle on the fire that now has flames simmering in places. It has also moved away from the Sierra Nevada's Giant Sequoia trees, some of which are 3,000 years old.
On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Lake and Napa counties due to the effects of the Valley Fire and on Friday, declared a state of emergency in Amador and Calaveras counties to help fight the Butte Fire. The OES center was activated to its highest level over the weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.