CT News 2020, Special Wildfire Edition

Amid devastation, Caltrans does its job

For link to wildfire video

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.

(Do you have any wildfire photographs, videos or stories to share? Please email them to reed.parsell@dot.ca.gov. Please note: All regular features of CT News, including Hats Off, Awards, Retirements and Obituaries, will return in the next issue.)

Director's Corner

Caltrans comes through in an unprecedented time

Toks Omishakin portrait

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.

The latest stories

District 1: A brush with danger in the North State

Johnnie James

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.

District 4: Caltrans part of a team effort in Glass Fire

Glass Fire, District 4, 2020

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.

District 6: A harrowing tale for Caltrans worker at lake

The Creek Fire along State Route 168 in District 6 (Photo by Carlos Lomeli)

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.

District 7: From the front lines of the Bobcat Fire

The Bobcat Fire along State Route 39 in District 7

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.

District 7: The Ranch 2 and the Bobcat Fires

This accompanies the District 7 wildfire recap story from September 2020

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.

District 8: El Dorado Fire puts Caltrans to the test

The El Dorado Fire off State Route 38 in District 8 (Photo by Ryan Dorsett)

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>

Wildfire images

See more by visiting our images page.

The El Dorado Fire off State Route 38 in District 8 (Photo by Ryan Dorsett)

A Caltrans plow stands ready to help clear the way on State Route 38, near Angeles Oaks, during the El Dorado Fire in District 8.

Photo by Ryan Dorsett, District 8

State Route 168 - Creek Fire

The Creek Fire in District 6 laid waste to vegetation and took a toll on this State Route 168 marker.

Photo by District 6

Wildfire videos

See more by visiting our videos page.

For CT News

The El Dorado in District 8forced the closure of State Route 38 and posed big challenges for firefighters.

Video by Terri Kasinga, District 8

Video button image for wildfire edition

The Bobcat Fire in District 7 forced the closure of State Route 39 in both directions.

Video by District 7

In This Issue


Reed Parsell
Editor, Caltrans News

Tamie McGowen
Assistant Deputy Director, Public Affairs

Contact the Editor
Reed Parsell

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