SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) – From near the Oregon border, to Yosemite National Park, crews are battling massive wildfires that have scorched thousands of acres.
The Boles Fire in Siskiyou County has burned about 100 homes and a Catholic Church, as it raged through the town of Weed. East of Sacramento, the King Fire in El Dorado County has burned nearly 12,000 acres and is threatening 500 homes. And in Madera County, the Courtney Fire has destroyed nearly three dozen structures.
Officials with the California Office of Emergency Services near Sacramento are making sure local communities have all the resources they need to fight these fires, from staffing, to tankers, to shelters.
“We had a lot of fires all at the same time, which created a need for multiple resources simultaneously,” said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Woodbeck of the California Emergency Management Agency.
While 6,000 firefighters across the state battle fires like the one that has devastated the town of Weed, two dozen people are hunkered down in this California OES Command center in Mather, answering phones and making calls to send help.
“What are the values at risk? Whether it’s a community, whether it’s lives, property, environmental assets, or infrastructure, those factors do play into which incidents get immediate need resources,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Dennis Mathisen.
Unlike the firestorms in 2007 that devastated Southern California, right now the dozen fires, all but one in the North, are manageable. There are enough resources at the local, state and federal levels so no one is being left to fend for themselves.
“We’re kind of like the only show in town, where all the fires are pretty much in California in the West Coast, so all those aircraft are here,” Woodbeck said.
This is the third time this summer they’ve activated this statewide coordination. Most recently, they assisted after the Napa quake. As local communities get overwhelmed, OES has deployed 260 fire engines from various fire departments. Three years into the drought, a lack of water is hampering efforts, but they saw this coming.
“We’ve anticipated being busy and we have been. And the predictions have pretty much come true for us,” Woodbeck said.
Some people can’t remember the last day they were off.
“Firefighters have been fighting fires all summer. They are getting tired, the equipment is getting worn,” Woodbeck said.