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Fire Department Calls Drop Off During 2020
hull fire
The first major fire event of the year for Escalon came over the weekend, with a Saturday afternoon almond hull fire on Jones Road. Escalon Fire Department Photo

Following a record-setting year in 2019, officials at the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District saw a drop in 2020, partially attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had 1,308 incidents in 2019 and that was a record,” said Fire Chief Rick Mello. “We had a total of 1,169 in 2020. We had a really busy February and we may have been on pace for another record-setting year but calls after February went down, that was kind of the trend due to the pandemic.”

April and May, often the busiest months as the fire season is ramping up, were slower than normal in 2020, said Mello, with May seeing the fewest calls during the year with 70. Busiest month of the year was August with 123 calls.

Percentage wise, a total of 60.3 percent of the department’s calls were medical aids, with September and December the busiest months in that category, with 70 calls each.

July was the busiest month for fires in 2020 with 20 total calls and August was the busiest month for motor vehicle accidents with 16.

The breakdown of the 2020 calls is as follows: Medical Aid, 705; Motor Vehicle Accidents, 105; Fires, 109; Miscellaneous, 250.

The department responded to its first major fire incident of 2021 this past weekend, with a Saturday afternoon fire on Jones Road. Mello said a loader that was being used within a few feet of an almond hull pile caught on fire.

“The heat from the loader and the wind speed that day spread the fire to the almond hull pile,” Mello explained.

Escalon responded to the scene and quickly called in back up, with water tenders from Farmington, Salida and Collegeville assisting along with engines from Modesto, Collegeville and Stanislaus Consolidated.

Crews were on scene for more than three hours working on containment, said Mello.

Calls for the department this week also included a fatal vehicle accident along Mariposa Road on Tuesday night, Feb. 23 when a 35-year-old man was ejected and died as a result of the single vehicle rollover crash. His name was not available from authorities.

Though calls the first couple of months of 2021 have been down, Mello anticipates seeing the numbers start to rise as the region begins opening up as pandemic restrictions loosen.

And while he said 2020 proved to be a “much more manageable year” in terms of calls than 2019, the department is preparing for a busy 2021.

“We are bringing in eight new people, they have passed their backgrounds,” Mello said of the combination of reserve and volunteer firefighters poised to join the department. “We hope to get their training started just in time before the fire season starts. We’ll see how these eight do; we typically have people that go off to CalFire during fire season, so the new people can be a nice boost to our ranks again.”