Wildfires

KVPR / Madi Bolanos

For over 35 years, the United States has partnered with Mexico to share resources during peak fire activity. And right now, 100 Mexican firefighters are in Tulare County helping to battle the SQF Complex Fire.

The crew from Guadalajara arrived Friday at the Kern County High School in Lake Isabella, where they were greeted by California fire officials. It’s not the first visit for Ramon Silva, deputy chief of the National Forestry Commission of Mexico. He helped fight the Camp Fire in 2018 so he’s seen the devastation wildfires have wreaked on the state and it concerns him.  

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

People across the San Joaquin Valley have been rallying to assist evacuees from the Creek Fire. For one family, the gift of a tent led to a change in outlook.

When Matthew Warner and his family were evacuated from their home in Tollhouse last week, they weren’t planning on camping, but they have three farm dogs that make finding a hotel room difficult.

 

Alex Hall / KQED

The Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris met with service personnel for an assessment of the wildfires on a visit to Fresno Tuesday.  

 

Through smoked-filled skies, Harris arrived at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport at 11 a.m. Her first stop: Pine Ridge School in the eastern Fresno County foothills town of Auberry.

 

EPA AirNow

 

So far in 2020, thousands of wildfires have torched a record-setting 3.2 million acres in California. If that makes this wildfire season unprecedented, here and throughout the West Coast, so is our region’s resulting smog. In a press conference on Monday, Valley air officials said: Don’t expect the air to clear for at least a few more days, and possibly longer.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

So far, the Red Cross has provided hotel rooms for 2,300 evacuees from the Creek Fire and counting. But because of so much demand, people may need to be prepared to stay out of county—and that can prove difficult for those with medical conditions.

When the evacuation order came down on Wednesday, Robert Alessandro wasn’t at his home in Tollhouse. He was at a Clovis clinic hooked up to a dialysis machine. The 62-year-old with end-stage renal disease receives the treatment every other day. “I’m pretty out of it” after treatment, he said. “It takes a lot out of you.”

Courtesy of Lasallian District of San Francisco New Orleans

 

Sometimes, firefighters have to do things other than battling blazes, including delivering bad news. In one Fresno County mountain town, the fire chief is uniquely suited to doing just that.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Creek Fire has grown to nearly 144,000 acres and is still completely uncontained. Evacuation orders have been issued for areas around Tollhouse and Prather up through the High Sierra regions around Mono Hot Springs, and evacuation warnings stretch as far north as Wawona and as far south as areas near Pine Flat Lake.

Courtesy of Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff's Office / Fresno County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE 12:23 p.m. 9/29/20

 

Containment is at 44% with 305,240 acres burned. 

 

The Following Evacuation Orders are Lifted in Fresno County:

Zone F1O: The south boundary extends to the end of properties located south of  Peterson Road. The west boundary begins at 37887 Peterson Road. The north and  east boundaries are the intersection of Peterson Road and James Mountain Road. 

 

EPA AirNow

On Monday, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a warning of unhealthy air conditions due to wildfire smoke from Northern California, an alert it repeated on Wednesday. Why then, for days, were online air monitors showing relatively healthy air? It’s the result of the size of the particulate matter blowing into the Valley, but also the level of information that air authorities share with the public.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Monday was Earth Day, and to commemorate, Fresno City College hosted a talk about how climate change is increasing our risk of wildfire—as well as some new climate change-related legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress. 

Listen to the audio for an interview with one of the speakers, Jerry Hinkle, an economist based in Northern California and a board member of the non-profit Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The fires burning in Northern California have now grown to over 200,000 acres and have killed more than 40 people. Closer to home the area off Highway 41 near Yosemite is recovering from the Railroad Fire that threatened communities, resorts and even a large grove of giant sequoias.

But perhaps the most iconic feature at risk of being lost was the historic Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition our team reports on how farmers are using robots on the farm. We also here from Fresno City Council Member Steve Brandau about his proposal to ban camping in the city to discourage homelessness. We also hear from Michael Kodas with the The Center for Environmental Journalism about his book "Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame" coming out later this month.

Don L. Weaver / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials say they have identified suspects responsible for starting the Courtney Fire, and a series of arson fires in Oakhurst.

Investigators say a juvenile is suspected of intentionally starting 13 fires in Madera County. Officials say the fires were all sparked in the Oakhurst area over the past few months, but do not include the Courtney or the Junction fires.

Officials also say they now know who’s believed to be responsible for starting the Courtney Fire that burned more than 300 acres near Bass Lake.

Bernie Quinn is a battalion chief for Cal Fire.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials appear to be gaining the upper hand on the Courtney Fire that destroyed over 30 homes near Bass Lake in the mountains of Madera County. The blaze has burned over 300 acres and is now 90 percent contained. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

Hundreds of people remain in evacuation after the Courtney Fire tore through houses and buildings.

As fire crews continue to make progress, some residents are returning to their homes. But there are others who never left.