Turlock fire fighters and police officers are headed up north to help authorities try to reign in the growing fire raging in Amador and Calaveras counties.
The Butte Fire, which ignited Wednesday afternoon, has burned 50,000 acres and destroyed six structures and two outbuildings, according to Cal Fire. The fire is about 10 percent contained and is currently threatening about 6,000 structures in the area.
The city of Turlock received a request for mutual aid and in response is sending one fire engine staffed with four Turlock Fire Department personnel and three members of the Turlock Police Department’s Traffic Unit. The officers will be assisting with patrol duties for the City of Mountain Ranch, while the fire fighters will be a part of a mixed-county strike team which will provide assistance in Amador and Calaveras counties.
"As fires continue to burn throughout California, we should all be proud of our deployed police officers and firefighters. They not only protect our community, but others as well. We anxiously await their safe return," said Mayor Gary Soiseth.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area Friday.
A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the town of San Andreas in the wake of what Cal Fire described as “explosive fire conditions in the area.” Other mandatory evacuations have been ordered for areas of Amador and Calaveras counties.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Cal Fire said the fire has proven difficult to contain because of the steep topography of the area, the current high temperatures, and the extremely dry conditions brought about by the drought.
More than 1,500 fire personnel are fighting the blaze, with a total of 178 engines, seven air tankers, 16 helicopters, 21 bulldozers, and seven water tenders.
The American Red Cross has opened three emergency shelters in Amador and Calaveras counties to assist those affected by the Butte Fire. Currently, more than 200 people have registered at just one of the shelters and dozens of Red Cross staff and volunteers are providing warm meals, a safe place to sleep and emotional support for those with immediate, disaster-caused needs.
“We sympathize with the individuals that we serve,” said Lilly Wyatt, director of regional communications for the Red Cross Gold Country Region. “Red Cross disaster teams are helping now and will continue to help as long as we need to.”
The Butte Fire, along with the Rough Fire burning in Fresno and Tulare counties, is negatively affecting the air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and has prompted an extension of the air alert by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The air alert is being issued for San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley air basin portion of Kern County.
Some areas are experiencing a cloud of visible ash falling from the sky. Any location where the odor of smoke can be detected and ash can be seen, the air quality would be “unhealthy” according to the air district.
While conditions are expected to improve over the weekend, smoke will continue to impact air quality in the foothill and mountain areas and potentially isolated areas of the Valley floor.
Fine-particulate matter (PM2.5) can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Where conditions warrant, people with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of particulate exposure. Additionally, older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure or heavy exertion, depending on their local conditions.
People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially susceptible to health effects from these pollutants. Air district officials urge residents to follow their doctors’ orders when exposed to fire emissions and stay indoors if at all possible.