Mutual aid system praised as crews fight fires across the state
Ventura County Star
California firefighting agencies are pouring their efforts into a mutual-aid network that’s working at full speed to battle 12 major wildfires at both ends of the state, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
As of Saturday, more than 400 engines, four dozen aircraft and more 7,000 personnel were battling wildfires that have burned as much as 159,000 acres statewide.
“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 agency.
The Whittier Fire grew overnight Friday to 17,364 acres near Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara County, pushing down containment from 52 percent to only 35 percent.
The fire, which started July 8 in the Santa Ynez Mountains on both sides of Highway 154, is burning an area above Goleta that has not burned since 1955, Cal Fire said.
Hundreds of local government firefighters from as far south as the San Marcos Fire Protection Department and as far north as the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District are working side-by-side with the U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire and many other local agencies on the fire.
Cal Fire said 1,615 personnel were on the scene. Equipment included 103 fire engines, 22 water tenders, six airplanes, 14 helicopters and 18 bulldozers. Also on the scene were four masticators – machines that crush and grind vegetation to remove large quantities of vegetation that’s dead and flammable after a yearslong drought.
Officials said eight homes and 12 outbuildings had burned.
More mandatory evacuation orders have issued near the fire in Santa Barbara County, sending the evacuee total past 2,500 people. Evacuation orders were in place for:
– Highway 154 from Armour Ranch (west side) to Paradise Road (east side).
– West Camino Cielo at Highway 154 to Winchester Gun Club, Kinevan Road.
– All of Winchester Canyon Road excluding the community of Wagon Wheel, Langlo Ranch Road and Winchester Commons west to El Capitan Ranch Road.
– Calle Real north to West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Road on the east to El Capitan Ranch Road on the west.
– Paradise Canyon Road from Highway 154 east to the first river crossing.
– Rosario Park and all of Stagecoach Road.
– Farren Road and Las Varas Canyon Road.
– Los Padres National Forest in the area of the fire was closed to the public effective Saturday.
Violation of the closure carries a penalty of $5,000 and/or six months in jail, authorities said. The order will expire when the fire is fully contained and controlled.
The Alamo Fire in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties was 93 percent contained Saturday. Cal Fire said the blaze near Twitchell Reservoir covered 28,687 acres Saturday and had destroyed one home and damaged another building since it began July 6.
The agency said there was minimal fire activity Saturday and that only isolated areas with burnt or decayed trees continued to smolder.
Crews continued to patrol the fire line, mopped up areas and removed hose lines, authorities said.
People without homes or businesses in the area were urged to stay away.
Bridge Fire: The wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest near Highland stood at 460 acres Saturday and was 35 to 40 percent contained. According to authorities, the fire was being battled by 470 firefighters.
Farad Fire: The blaze, which broke out Monday 12 miles northeast of Truckee, covered 747 acres and was 81 percent contained Saturday.
Wall Fire: The fire in Butte County was 96 percent contained Saturday. It broke out July and burned 6,033 acres southeast of Oroville.
Winters Fire: The blaze in Yolo County is 100 percent contained at 2,269 acres.
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