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Holiday Heat Fierce Winds Whip Up Fires
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Though you wouldn't have known it by Saturday's chilly weather, the start of the long holiday weekend was a hot one, with local fire departments rushing from one call to another nearly all day Thursday, May 22. A strike team from the Farmington Fire Department was also called in to service, sent to battle the Summit Fire in the Santa Cruz area.

Intermittent rain dampened the area both Saturday and Sunday, but Thursday and Friday were warm and windy, with Escalon Fire Department responding to more than a dozen calls on Thursday alone and nearby Farmington also logging multiple incidents.

The first call for Escalon on Thursday came in just after 8:30 a.m. and was a grass fire that started in the 16000 block of Escalon-Bellota Road. It got into some calf hutches before crews could bring it under control and five calves were lost. Other calls ranged from mutual aid calls to Farmington and Oakdale to grass and vegetation fires in the area of Highway 120 and Seidner, Highway 120 and Henry, Lone Tree and Carrolton and Lone Tree and Van Allen roads.

Escalon responded to Oakdale Rural Station One to stand by at that station while crews were battling a multi-acre wildland fire in Knights Ferry. Some Escalon firefighters were completing a swift water rescue training class in the Stanislaus River at Knights Ferry when the blaze broke out, caused by a willow tree snapping in the wind and coming down on a power line, sparking the fire.

"You could see the smoke," said firefighter Matt Herrero, who was involved in the training. "We were in the river, finishing up, we could see the smoke and they finally came and told us we'd better get out."

The Knights Ferry fire, which started on Frymire Road, destroyed a century-old house there and resulted in the evacuation of several residents. It also forced the closure of Highway 108-120 for several hours due to limited visibility because of heavy smoke.