It took only about 20 minutes for Ripon, Manteca and Lathrop-Manteca fire departments to mobilize Sunday after a priority call for their Office of Emergency Service (OES) response to the 19-square-mile Ponderosa wildfire that broke out mid-day on Saturday.
The fire is burning 35 miles to the east of Redding near the towns of Manton, Shingletown, and Viola is forcing thousands to flee. At least 3,000 rural homes along the border of Tehama and Shasta counties were threatened as the fire continues to expand. The fire had zero containment as of 10 p.m. Sunday.
In addition to the Manteca area departments responding, one fire company was joining them from Stanislaus County for the six-hour drive into the fire-plagued Shasta and Tehama counties. All the engines were rendezvousing at Flag City at I-5 and Highway 12 where they would draw their assignments from team leader Chief Ken Mackey of Lodi and head north in a caravan.
Other departments sent teams from as far away as Scotts Valley on the coast near Santa Cruz to establish an offense in hopes of saving the many homes being threatened.
The advancing flames were threatening Shingletown on Highway 44 where firefighting has been a challenge in the past due to its rugged terrain. Manteca city firefighters already had one of their units at a Redding fire scene.
Ripon Captain Neil Green, firefighter Brian Pratt and Escalon firefighter Cassidy Bohannon manned the Ripon engine less than 30 minutes after receiving the mutual aid request. Green noted that his daughter was about to have dinner with the family before she heads off for college when he got the assignment.
It was midnight Saturday when Manteca City Firefighters responded with their special (OES) engine and headed toward the fire. On board was Captain Rob Martinez, engineer Steve Burrows and firefighters Mike Loomis and Bryan Avant.
Sunday afternoon at about the same time that Ripon’s crew responded, Manteca sent its second engine to the fire. Captain Kevin Terpstra and his team of engineer Bob Marty and firefighter Traig Smith pulled out of the Powers Avenue fire station with engine 245. That crew had been taken from the Louise Avenue station at Crestwood Avenue.
Battalion Chief Bob Davis said that off-duty firefighters were called in immediately to replace the manpower when the strike team was mobilized. He said there is no lack of coverage in the city when firefighters respond to a mutual aid request.
The blaze was reportedly threatening some 3,000 residences and 20 businesses in the affected communities. The wildfire was spreading to the north and northeast from Manton approaching the Shingletown area.
One school has been closed and evacuations of homes had been ordered on Sunday. Big League Dreams offered its sports facility as an evacuation center in Redding.
The first fire engines were noticed driving up Highway 99 at Yosemite Avenue as the In-N-Out Burger was closing. Firefighters on their way north pulled up in front of the fast food restaurant that was devoid of customers and picked up their take-outs to the surprise of the staff – the last of the night.
“We took care of them,” one of the staffers, said on Sunday.