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Manteca firefighters battling SoCal blaze

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POSTED May 17, 2014 1:48 a.m.

A flare up in a new Camp Pendleton fire in Southern California Friday brought a call for more resources from around the state including a San Joaquin County strike team.  Fire crews are already battling three large grass and vegetation fires at the San Diego County Marine training base.

Manteca Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Kyle Shipherd is leading a four engine Office of Emergency Services strike team made up of 21 firefighters into the heart of the Camp Pendleton fire. They were assigned from the base camp in Escondido late Friday afternoon.

Shipherd said his caravan of green engines provided by the OES departed at midnight Thursday heading down I-5 to Southern California where there have been as many as seven fires fanned by strong winds.  The crews arrived in the city of Escondido at about 9 a.m. Friday.

The four-man teams aboard the special fire units are from Manteca, Stockton, Lodi, Woodbridge and Tracy.  The state funded OES engines are assigned to those five stations all of which must be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to a call anywhere in the state.  

One of the challenges for firefighters fighting range blazes is that the men are often sleep deprived as they attempt to get a hold on the spread of the fire and manage the fire lines.

Shipherd talked with the Bulletin via his cell phone at 10 p.m. Friday. He said his firefighters were in the middle of the Marine base and some 30 minutes inland from I-5.  The afternoon saw an increase in the winds from 20 to 30 miles an hour which whipped the blaze and makes firefighting even more difficult compared to the nighttime hours.

He added that the winds had dropped to a mere two to three miles an hour after night fall giving firefighters a better chance to get some control.  Military personnel have been battling several separate blazes that have together burned some 22,000 acres on and near the base.  

More evacuations were ordered after the new fire broke out at about 11:30 a.m. Friday near Interstate 5. It has been coined the San Mateo Fire by authorities. By 9 p.m. Friday the fire had scorched some 800 acres and was only 25 percent contained. Military personnel in the San Onofre Housing Area and the School of Infantry West on the northern edge of the base were also ordered to evacuate.

The other two fires on the base are the Las Pulgas fire and the Tomahawk Fire.

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