As fires continue to rage across various regions of California, the state's mutual aid system has been sending firefighting teams out from agencies all over the state, including teams from Turlock.
Through California’s mutual-aid system, more than 400 local government and Cal OES engines/tenders have been deployed on the front lines at wildfires around the state. As of July 15, there were more than 400 engines, four dozen aircraft and over 7,000 personnel working on wildfires that have already burned more than 160,000 acres statewide.
Currently, the third largest wildfire in California, the Detwiler Fire, is burning more than 62 miles away from Turlock in Mariposa County. The fire ignited Sunday near Lake McClure in Hunters Valley. As of Friday, the fire had burned more than 74,000 acres and was 15 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. It has destroyed 118 structures and has threatened another 1,500, according to Cal Fire. Evacuation orders were given for Mariposa and Coulterville during the course of the fire. Firefighters lifted an evacuation order for residents of Mariposa and reopened Highway 140 between the town and Yosemite, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Andy Isolano said.
Turlock Fire Department personnel have been deployed to assist with the Detwiler Fire as part of the California Office of Emergency Services Strike Team 5806A. The team arrived on Tuesday and were immediately put on the task of prepping and defending structures in Mariposa County. On Thursday, the team was on the front lines of the fire for a 24-hour shift. The Turlock team joins more than 3,000 firefighters battling the blaze.
"Our tried-and-true mutual aid system is working just as designed. We're strategically deploying a lot of resources to these wildfires, regardless of where they're burning," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. "Our number one priority is to protect lives and property using the most effective combination of local, state and federal resources through a unified effort.”
This is the third fire that Turlock's Strike Team 5806A has been assigned to in two weeks. The team was headed home from the Whittier Fire when they were deployed to the Detwiler Fire.
Originally adopted in 1950, the purpose of the mutual aid plan is to: provide systematic mobilization, organization, and operation of necessary fire and rescue resources; provide comprehensive and compatible plans for the expedient mobilization and response; establish guidelines for recruiting and training auxiliary personnel to augment regularly organized fire and rescue personnel during disaster operations; provide an annually-updated fire and rescue inventory of all personnel, apparatus, and equipment in California; provide a plan and communication facilities for the interchange and dissemination of fire and rescue-related data, directives, and information between fire and rescue officials of local, state, and federal agencies.; and promote annual training and/or exercises between plan participants.
Gov. Jerry Brown has issued an emergency proclamation for Mariposa County due to the effects of the Detwiler Fire.
Cal Fire set up a command post for the Detwiler Fire at the Merced County Fairgrounds. The American Red Cross is operating the following shelter locations for residents impacted by the Detwiler Fire: EV Free Church, 50443 High School Road, Oakhurst; Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, 39696 Highway 41, Oakhurst; Mountain Christian Center, 40299 Highway 49, Oakhurst; Cesar Chavez Junior High, 161 S. Plainsburg Road, Planada; and Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora.
Volunteers are on hand at each location to provide lodging, meals, health services and comfort for affected residents. Veterinary services are available for animals as well.
The Red Cross urges everyone to follow evacuation orders from local law enforcement and have an emergency kit ready to go for any disaster including wildfires. Visit http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/wildfire to learn more.
Locally, Sew Creative in Turlock is organizing efforts to help those individuals displaced from the wildfires. Samantha Burns, the office manager at the shop, said they are accepting donations of needed items that they will transport up to the shelters, using one of their trucks, which the corporation donated for the assistance use. Needed items include: bottled water, toiletries, air mattresses, sleeping bags, baby items, pet food and supplies and feed for larger animals, like hay. They are not taking cash donations.
"Basically, we are taking anything the people might need," Burns said.
They plan on taking the items to the evacuation centers on Saturday and will make as many trips as needed.
"We felt it is our civic duty to help and we have the ability to do it," Burns said.
Locals wishing to donate items for the wildfire evacuees can drop them off at Sew Creative, located at 1400 Lander Ave.
10 East Kitchen and Tap House also felt a need to help the efforts and went down Thursday to deliver food to the firefighters. Their meals included 500 cookies made and donated by Olde Tyme Pastries and 20 cases of bottled water donated by Village Fresh.
Residents can also help people affected by disasters like wildfires and other crises by making a donation to support Red Cross Disaster Relief. The gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Call, click or text to give: visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text “RED CROSS” to 91999 to make a $10 donation to your local Red Cross region.
Numerous Save Mart Supermarket stores began collecting monetary donations for the American Red Cross fire relief efforts in Mariposa County. Shoppers can donate any amount at checkout. The donation amount will be printed on the receipt, so shoppers have a record of their tax-deductible donation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.