California’s fire season began early this year and hit several counties hard. Dozens of fires are still being fought by hundreds of firefighters across the state to prevent the destruction of more homes and businesses and loss of life.
In this state of emergency declared by President Donald Trump, fire departments from all over California and other states sent in their strike teams comprised of specially trained firefighters fully equipped to combat such wildland fires as the Mendocino Complex fire.
In late July, the Santa Clara Fire Department (SCFD) dispatched three engines and crews north to aid in the fight against the largest fire in California’s history.
“That’s a total of 12 Santa Clara firefighters assigned to that fire,” said Santa Clara Fire Chief Bill Kelly. “Each of those three engine crews were dispatched for a maximum of two weeks.”
Kelly said around 25 percent of SCFD is trained to combat wildland fires. “It’s dangerous work, so it’s important to get specialized training.”
SCFD is part of a statewide mutual aid system where it can receive aid in Santa Clara should the need arise. In turn, the department provides aid to other departments including the Mendocino County Fire Department.
Composed of the River and Ranch fires, the Mendocino Complex fire envelopes the southernmost land of the Mendocino National Forest and expands through the South Cow Mountain Recreational Area in Ukiah.
“A complex fire is two fires in the same geographic region that are being fought as one fire,” said Kelly.
Each fire endangers over 1000 structures and the massive inferno has burned over 380,000 acres in total. CAL Fire officials have not yet determined the cause of either fire.
Declared contained, the River fire is in the process of being snuffed out while the Ranch fire is 76 percent contained with an expected complete containment by the beginning of September, according to a CAL Fire update.
Although strike team members spent weeks away from their families, “it’s a commitment our firefighters are willing to make to help those in need throughout California,” said Kelly. He said he was proud of the work the Santa Clara strike team put forward to extinguish the massive fire.
The strike teams are now back in Santa Clara recuperating and preparing for their next assignment.