Suddenly the entire state seemed to be on fire. Lightning strikes cracked down from the summer sky in late August and helped trigger thousands – yes, thousands – of wildfires throughout California. Six of the 20 largest fires in state history have occurred so far in 2020, and the wildfire “season” could well last deep into November. Below are pictures, videos and stories of how Caltrans workers are doing all they can to keep the roads open for firefighters and endangered residents.
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We have experienced a wildfire season in 2020 like no other before it. Five of the largest six blazes in the recorded history of California ignited this summer. In this special edition of the CT News, we highlight how Caltrans districts and employees in fire-stricken areas rose to the challenge of keeping the public safe during these crises.
As supervisor of the Idlewild Maintenance Station on State Route 199 near the California-Oregon border, Johnnie James and his crew have responded to more than their share of emergency situations and harrowing circumstances. But perhaps nothing quite as terrifying as the Slater Fire that forced the emergency evacuation of the Idlewild station in the early morning hours of Sept. 9.
The cover story for the November 2020 issue of “Wired” magazine titled “The Fires Next Time,” quotes CalFire Chief Brian Estes who commands firefighting operations in three California counties as saying, “We’re running 400 to 500 fires a year. In the heat of summer, five or six per day – and most you will never see.” That is a lot of firefighting, and Caltrans is getting better at supporting Cal Fire and first responders as they work to save lives and property.
Caltrans equipment operator Eric Gonzalez planned a weekend getaway to Mammoth Pools, a reservoir that borders Madera and Fresno County in the Sierra Nevada, with his nephew and family friends for Labor Day weekend. The weekend started on Friday afternoon with little recognition that a fire burned deep in the Sierra National Forest.
The Bobcat Fire began for us on Monday, Sept. 7, which was Labor Day. We were notified at 6 a.m. that the Chilao Maintenance Station was being evacuated. We immediately went into action evacuating our resident employees and their families. When they were safe we set about moving essential equipment out of harm’s way.
The 2020 brush fire season so far: California forests burst into flames with more than 3 million acres burned. Six of the largest brush fires in California recorded history. All 18 California National Forests closed to recreation. Seventeen counties in a state of emergency.
The El Dorado Fire began Sept. 5 in the El Dorado Park region near Yucaipa, located within District 8. The 23-day fire burned about 22,600 acres in the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area of the San Bernardino National Forest and in the Oak Glen/Yucaipa Ridge area. The blaze forced residents in many communities to evacuate. Additionally, State Route 38 was closed while fire crews battled the blaze./p>
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