A San Joaquin County strike team that includes firefighters from the Manteca Fire Department and Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department has been dispatched to the North State to combat a fire that is threatening multiple rural mountain communities.
The Eiler Fire – which was burned more than 25,000 acres around the Shasta County enclave of Burney and is zero percent contained – and the Bald Fire, which has burned more 40,000 acres near Fall River Mills, are the focus for crews that includes not only firefighters from each of the departments, but also Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters and Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely.
According to Manteca Fire Battalion Chief David Marques, the strike team – which includes firefighters from throughout San Joaquin County – was out preserving structures on Monday around the Eiler fire, which quadrupled in size over the weekend and has already claimed eight homes, 20 outbuildings and a restaurant.
“They’re all up there right now – Chief Waters and Chief Neely are both strike team leaders,” said Marques. “At this point they’re working on preserving structures in the area, but that always changes depending on what’s needed.”
Marques said that the crews will either sleep in mobile trailers provided by the federal government – the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Association has been called in – or on the ground or in their engines when time permits.
Lathrop-Manteca Battalion Chief Larry Madoski is running things in Neely’s absence, and said that the chief originally started with his five-engine team at the Bald Fire.
“Things are just so fluid up there right now that assignments can change very quickly,” he said. “Right now it looks like we’re going to have another three firefighters on their way.”
Last year crews from both departments were dispatched to the massive Rim Fire that burned into Yosemite National Park. The fire went on to become the largest fire ever in the Sierra mountain range, and the third largest California wildfire on record.