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Manteca, Lathrop firefighters battle major SoCal wildfire

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POSTED December 6, 2017 1:58 a.m.

A fast-moving Southern California fire that has already burned more than 150 homes and forced the evacuations of nearly 30,000 residents is now getting mutual aid from local firefighters.
As winds whipped flames across almost 51,000 acres in Ventura County, both the Manteca Fire Department and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District dispatched firefighters as part of separate Office of Emergency Services strike crews that will provide assistance at containing the blaze called the Thomas Fire.
California Governor Jerry Brown issued a State of Emergency in response to the dire situation, and as of Tuesday evening more than 1,100 firefighters were trying to contain the flames that have already claimed a large apartment complex and a psychiatric hospital. Representatives from Cal Fire believe that hundreds of other structures have already been burnt, but firefighters simply haven’t been able to get into the area in which the destruction is believed to have occurred.
“Never in a million years did I think I would going down to this part of California in December to battle a fire,” said Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely while responding Tuesday afternoon with a second crew on a Type 3 engine after sending their OES Type 1 Engine with three firefighters early Tuesday morning. “I put it into perspective, I had to repack my bag – I had already unloaded it and put everything away this year.
“During the summer, that is always packed and ready to go.”
It’s been a particularly tumultuous fire season in California thanks to extensive rains last winter and a series of strange weather patterns, including a summer storm that regrew grasses and other fuels, that have made the job of fighting these blazes difficult for firefighters.
In addition to burning tens of thousands of acres in rural parts of California, flames this year have also decimated densely-populated areas like Santa Rosa where wind aided in the destruction of entire residential neighborhoods overnight.
Manteca initially responded with two strike teams, and Lathrop-Manteca has now contributed the same to aid in the fire suppression effort.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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