There have been several wildfires throughout California and the calendar indicates we are only halfway through the month of July. According to Fire Chief Randall Bradley with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District on Topeka Street in Riverbank, the fire season in California was once really clear and started at the end of April and ran through the end of September. However, since California has been in a severe drought for the past several years and the climate seems to be changing, the fire season has shifted to being virtually year-round.
“We literally have vegetation fires now in December and January,” said Bradley. “They are small and they are not going to go a lot of places but in Northern California it is just amazing that we do have a peak fire season now but all year-round we have a potential for wildfires and even significant fires in February and March.”
District wide there have been 397 fires from Jan. 1 through July 7 and between July 3 through 5 Stanislaus Consolidated’s Station 36 responded to 19 calls for service, which included a vacant lot fire on Terminal Avenue and Van Dusen as well as a grass fire in a field on Claribel Road and Roselle Avenue.
The fire on Terminal Avenue had potential but was approximately a half-acre of a vacant lot. There were no structures lost and the cause was undetermined. The speculation is that fireworks may have been the cause.
Administrative Battalion Chief Kevin Wise was on duty for the busy July 4 holiday weekend. The grass fire was about half to three quarters of an acre and had a house on the corner with some buildings in back and although it had potential, there were no structures damaged or injuries reported. The cause was also undetermined.
“A good assumption would be fireworks but we don’t know for sure,” stated Wise. “There were a lot of fireworks that night. We were running from fire to fire.”
After the Terminal fire, the firefighters were called out to assist with a structure fire in Oakdale where they were for the rest of the night. Modesto Engine 7 covered the station in Riverbank while that crew was in Oakdale.
They also had two rescues along the river. A family was stuck on the river at night in Knights Ferry and had two working cell phones to call authorities for rescue. There was a helicopter on scene that found the family and the fire crew along with three deputies from the Sheriff’s office assisted with the call. They had to cut the bushes with a chainsaw to get to the family because the water was too low to launch the boats, which would have made the rescue easier.
The station also responded to seven vegetation fires on Tuesday, July 7.
“That is a lot for us in one day,” added Bradley. “We are really concerned that the fields are extremely dry.”
Bradley explained that illegal fireworks are probably 90 percent of the problems that the fire station faces on the Fourth of July.
“Especially when you have these things that are propelled like bottle rockets, they land on roofs or land in dry grass and those are our primary issues,” expressed Bradley. “It just seems like the last few years they have become more prevalent.”
According to Bradley, the State Fire Marshal’s office is cracking down on illegal fireworks and pushing hard for greater penalties.
“I really hope that occurs because people get hurt and homes are lost,” said Bradley. “It is just unfortunate.”