Cal OES Asst. Chief Brian Woodbeck and Chief Kim Zagaris review current conditions on wildfires burning throughout the state and coordinate mutual aid strike teams to battle complex incidents.

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

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:


Fire Management Assistance Grants


Cal OES Twitter

Cal OES Facebook


Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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