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Fire department bracing for busy season ahead
fire dept

Smoke from the Aero Fire in Calaveras County that broke out shortly before 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 17 drifted into San Joaquin County – among other neighboring counties – and Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello said with a number of wildfire incidents over the past few weeks, fire season has officially arrived.

In effect, the chief admitted, it never really ends in California any more, but there are times that are busier than others.

This year, with plenty of vegetation growth due to the wet winter, there is an ample amount of fuel for wildfires.

Mello said the Escalon department did lose reserve firefighter Nick Nava, who was picked up by CalFire for the fire season, but they are bringing several new reserves on board.

“We have seven that are finishing various parts of their background and medical checks,” Mello explained,

As the calendar turns from June to July, the weather heats up and the July 4 holiday looms, Mello said it’s important for residents to be cautious.

“The Fourth of July is always a concern,” he said, noting that even the ‘Safe and Sane’ fireworks – if used improperly – can lead to problems.

Add to that, the preponderance of illegal fireworks, and fire crews are often stretched to the limit.

With many small, rural departments providing mutual aid for each other, Mello said it can be difficult to be there for back-up for others if your firefighters are busy with incidents in their own service area.

“Everything seems drier this year, for whatever reason,” the chief added.

He said a recent fireworks safety class put on by the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department for local firefighters and police was eye-opening. Hosted near the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Mello said even in that controlled environment, the use of the fireworks for the class started a half dozen small grass fires in the area. With crews on scene, they were extinguished quickly but Mello said it pointed out the fact of how fast a situation can turn.

“We always bring in extra seasonal personnel,” the chief explained of increasing the number of firefighters on duty for each shift during the height of the summer fire season.

Hot weather is also in the forecast, with the chief reiterating the need to be safe on the local waterways, making sure everyone wears a life jacket and knows their destination when they put in on the river.

One other item that aids firefighters is the use of the large blue numbered address signs, available at the fire department, to provide visible signage for homes in the area, especially those along rural roues. The signs can be purchased at the fire station on Coley Avenue for $20; call 209-838-7500 for more information.