California’s Fire & Rescue Mutual Aid System Working To Battle Season’s Biggest Wildfires


Jul 11, 2017 10:50 am
Photo of Asst. Chief Brian Woodbeck and Kim Zagaris

Swinging into action for yet another season, teams of specially-trained firefighters from across the state are being strategically deployed to the state’s biggest wildfires. Currently, eight menacing wildfires are actively burning across the state, with more than half of those in the Central and Southern regions alone.

These fires are requiring the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to put the California Mutual Aid System to work.

“Every year we’re playing an important strategy game, constantly tracking resources and monitoring the temperatures, winds and fuel conditions all over the state,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of Cal OES. “Our mutual aid system relies heavily on the good faith efforts of local government agencies who have always responded to calls for help without hesitation. We’re proud of the system because it’s proven to be the most effective in the world.”

The record-breaking high temperatures in Southern California last weekend combined with dry vegetation from winter rain growth created ideal wildfire conditions. California also is recovering from a historic six-year drought.

Earlier this week, Cal OES tasked the California National Guard to deploy several aircraft to support local, state and federal firefighters. The aircraft included three Army Black Hawk and two Air Force Pave Hawk helicopters for Northern California fires and three more Black Hawks and two Air Force C-130J airtankers to be stationed in Southern California.

On July 9, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an emergency proclamation for Butte County due to the effects of the Wall Fire, which has burned hundreds of acres, damaged critical infrastructure, threatened homes and caused the evacuation of residents.

Also that same day, Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Wall Fire. The FMAG also enables local, state and tribal agencies to recover eligible costs.

In total, the active fires have burned more than 78,000 acres and impacted seven different counties.

Below is a comprehensive list of all eight active wildfires:

Island Fire

Acres: 881

Containment: 0%

County: Siskiyou

 

Wall Fire

Acres: 5,800

Containment: 45%

County: Butte

 

Schaeffer Fire

Acres: 14,934

Containment: 11%

County: Tulare

 

Garza Fire

Acres: 14,028

Containment: 17%

County: Kings

 

Stone Fire

Acres: 340

Containment: 40%

County: San Luis Obispo

 

Alamo Fire

Acres: 28,926

Containment: 45%

County: San Luis Obispo

 

Whittier Fire

Acres: 10,823

Containment: 25%

County: Santa Barbara

 

Winters Fire

Acres: 2,269

Containment: 90%

County: Yolo

 

Through California’s mutual-aid system, more than 350 local government and Cal OES engines/tenders are currently deployed on the front lines at wildfires from Siskiyou County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south. 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.

Another option for Cal OES is to reach out to its mutual aid partners requesting assistance from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) – the nation’s mutual-aid system. EMAC, which includes the participation of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a nationally recognized mutual-aid system that provides the foundation for states impacted by a disaster to request and send resources across state borders.

Click here for more about the California mutual-aid system and here for additional information on EMAC.

 

Additional resources:

Cal OES

Fire Management Assistance Grants

Cal FIRE

Cal OES Twitter

Cal OES Facebook

 


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