Cal Fire crews from the San Diego area have been keeping busy during their detail to the mountain area. Five engines and a strike team leader from the southern end of the state have been stationed around the Eastern Madera and Mariposa County area since Monday, Aug. 24, and have had plenty to do.
They were hard at work Tuesday, Sept. 4, at a residence on Scenic Drive, just off Road 222, when a travel trailer, parked behind the house caught fire.
The thick brush and steep hillside created the potential for the fire to race up the hill into other residential areas, and Cedar Valley Engine #18 was sent around to Nelder Heights road in case that happened.
Crews were dispatched at 1:30 p.m., and had the fire under control within about 20 minutes of arriving on-scene, keeping the blaze to only about .16 acres, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler, one of the 16 firefighters from San Diego.
“They got here fast,” said Steve Marshall. “It was just a few minutes from the time I made the call.”
Marshall said that about 1:30 p.m. the woman who lives just across the street came running up to his front door yelling “Call 911! Call 911!”
“The whole area behind her house was on fire,” said Marshall. “I didn’t know the address, it’s not posted on their driveway, so I called and gave them mine.”
Marshall then ran up to the blaze and and started doing what he could with a garden hose.
“I was the first one here, and got all the hotspots,” he said. “But I was really worried, just waiting for the propane tank to blow. Those flames were really hot!”
Cal Fire is taking no chances with these hot dry conditions, and full dispatch was called for, including air tankers, dozers and helicopters. Those resources were called off, but there were 11 engines on the scene, including 2 Forest Service units, and local Cal Fire.
As we have seen throughout this fire season, crews made short work of what could have been an explosive situation. The trailer was a total loss, and the cause is under investigation.
Once the blaze was extinguished, and crews were busy with mop-up, the focus shifted to another potential problem.
Battalion Chief Nick Schuler had his hands full there in the middle of the road, as it seemed there was a bit of tension concerning the woman who’s property had burned, and 4 or 5 neighbors across the road. She was holding a large pit bull by his very large collar, and kept telling the neighbors to “stay back or he might bite you.”
“We’ve tried to call in on this dog so many times,” one of the neighbors told us. “That dog has tried to bite several people, including one of those firefighters. You turn your back on it, and it’ll go for you.”
Schuler encouraged everyone to stand down and let them deal with the issue at hand, which was the fire.
Once the tensions were calmed, the San Diego contingent shared how their time in the mountains has been.
“I love it up here,” said Fire Captain Ken Moffitt. “Everybody gets along, and we just show up and get it done. It’s a team effort.”
They have been called in to fill the gaps left when our own local firefighters are dispatched to other areas of the state to assist in efforts there.
“We move resources throughout the network, move equipment throughout the state to fill vacancies,” said Coarsegold Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson. “That way we make sure our communities always have the level of fire protection needed.“
The 5 engines are stationed in Coarsegold, Ahwahnee, Hornitos, Coulterville, and Cal Fire headquarters in Mariposa.
Though they don’t know when they’ll be returning to their own station down south, they don’t seem to be in any hurry.
Nick Schuler is enjoying this detail. “We don’t wanna go home, we like it up here. Just trying to find where I’m going to stay at Bass Lake on my next vacation.”