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Making things worse are series of 0% contained lightning caused wildfires burning in Diablo Range
Photo by Chris Teicheira One of the byproducts of airborne particles from dust, pollution, and smoke are colorful sunsets as this photo taken in a cornfield shows.

A series of lightning caused wildfires in the Diablo Range southwest of Manteca are burning out of control.

The Canyon Fire — actually six fires — started early Sunday morning in Del Puerto Canyon near Patterson. As of Monday at 8 p.m. more than 10,000 acres have burned. Cal Fire indicated they had zero containment.

At the same time the Deer Zone Fire also in the Diablo Range southwest of Brentwood near Deer Valley and March Creek roads has burned 1,450 acres. It too was started Sunday morning and has zero containment.

Smoke from the fires blowing into the valley is exacerbating the heat wave that is now in its seventh day with a high of 109 degrees expected today.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has issued a health caution due to smoke from the fires as well as others burning in the state that are sending smoke into the valley.

Manteca Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Marques wasn’t surprised by the Diablo Range fires burning in sparsely populated areas of Stanislaus and Contra Costa counties having zero containment after two days.

“There isn’t anyone to send,” Marques said.

Manteca Fire was already assisting the statewide fire effort that was handling 20 wildfires on Monday with strike teams helping on the 95 percent contained 33,324-acre Apple Fire in Southern California and the Loyalton Fire that has now burned 39,725 acres north of Lake Tahoe and is 10 percent contained.

Thirteen fires that are within Cal Fire’s coverage area had zero containment as of Monday at 9 p.m.

Marques noted jurisdictions such as Manteca that are part of the statewide response network that assists with wildfires aren’t in a position to spare more crews due to fire conditions.

The National Weather Service is now anticipating a second heat wave will start Friday and run its course for eight days. The current eight day heat wave and the next round that is expected to peak next Monday at 107 degrees — will book end the sub-100 degree high of 97 degrees predicted for Thursday.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) that oversees the power grid serving 40 million Californians warned that the threat of rolling power outages due to the heat wave kicking up demand could continue through at least Wednesday.

PG&E had alerted Manteca emergency operations officials as well as customers by text and phone messages that power outages were possible Monday in Manteca. Power had been shut off to PG&E customers in Ripon for several hours on Sunday due to the surge in statewide power demand.

Thanks to customers conserving energy by not running items such as washers and dryers until after peak demand passed at 9 p.m. Monday, rolling power outages were avoided.

Unlike planned shutoffs due to wildfire threats, there is no way of PG&E — or any other power provider — being able to give customers any concrete warning before electricity is cut. That’s because CISO has to more quick when a surge in use occurs as the limit of the power grid and energy resources are neared to avoid massive widespread blackouts that can last for eight hours or more.

What CISO does when usage starts nearing the limits it alerts power providers of the number of customers they have to be prepared to shutoff in a moment’s notice to avoid a massive failure in the statewide power grid.

PG&E, and other utilities, then decide what area they will cut power to virtually the same minute CISO determines the system can’t safely be pushed anymore. Statewide on Monday, CAISO advised power providers they had had to get ready to shed the equivalent of 1 million household customers.

PG&E’s policy is to rotate outages caused by demand exceeding electricity supplies so that the same communities are not impacted back to back to essentially share the pain. That differs from planned power service interruptions were power is cut to specific areas served by vulnerable limes — including transmission — when wildfire conditions warrant it.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email