As the SCU Lightning Complex fires continue to blaze in seven different counties in the Bay Area, Cal Fire representatives say they are getting a hold of things.
Since breaking out on Aug. 16, the complex of fires has grown to 363,772 acres as of Tuesday afternoon, making it the second largest fire in California history.
Fifteen percent of the fire has been contained, mostly in the northeastern part of the fire in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, according to Cal Fire Operations Section Chief Tim Ernst.
The western ridge of the fire, bordering Fremont, Milpitas and San Jose, has not been contained but firefighters have bulldozed trees along the flank to create a dozer line and slow the spread of the fire.
“This entire west flank remains the number one priority in this instant because of the increased threat to public safety along with a lot of these populated communities and infrastructure risks as we move down the south,” Ernst said.
There are still three to four areas that have a lot of fire activity, Ernst said. Those areas include the northwestern part, east of Milpitas and Alum Rock, and in the southwestern part, near Henry W Coe State Park and north of the San Luis Reservoir. Firefighters are currently dropping retardant to slow the spread in the southwestern portion. “Short range spotting continues to be an issue due to dense brush fields with no burn history,” Cal Fire said in its incident update. “Access into remote areas is lengthy and hampered by trees/branches continuing to fall blocking the roadways.”
So far, the fire has destroyed 18 structures and 13 minor structures and damaged six. The blaze has also injured three first responders and two civilians, according to CalFire. Nearly 20,000 structures remain threatened. There are over 1,300 personnel trying to suppress the fire, with 162 engines, 42 water tenders, five helicopters, 23 hand crews and 40 dozers deployed, according to Cal Fire.
With the fire still not completely contained, there are evacuation orders in place in five different zones in Santa Clara County, two zones in Alameda County, one zone in Stanislaus County and one zone in San Joaquin County. There are also evacuation warnings in place for Santa Clara, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Alameda and Merced Counties.
“We will keep those orders and warnings in place no longer than we absolutely have to. We understand that it is an inconvenience,” said Cal Fire Unit Chief Jake Hess. “We are being mindful of the impacts those are to civilians.”
There are three temporary evacuation points for SCU Lightning Complex evacuees: Creekside Middle School in Patterson, Milpitas Library in Milpitas and Ann Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill. To view most recent updates to evacuation zones visit: http://www.tinyurl.com/scu-evacmap. To sign up for email updates visit: www.tinyurl.com/Lightningcomplex.