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Train Sparks Series Of Brush, Grass Fires
Escalons Engine 1-4 arrives on scene and awaits further instructions, responding to a mutual aid call at a series of fires along the railroad tracks in Oakdale on Monday morning, July 17. Marg Jackson/The Times

A series of fires along the railroad tracks between Oakdale and Riverbank on Monday morning, July 17 saw a coordinated response from multiple units, with five Stanislaus Consolidated stations sending equipment and personnel. Escalon Fire Department also sent an engine to the scene, answering a mutual aid call.

Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Eric DeHart said the first call came in around 9:40 a.m. Monday.

“The investigation did determine that it (the cause) came from the train,” DeHart said of sparks from a passing train on the Sierra railroad line igniting a series of fires.

“Ash (Avenue) was the first fire we had, the last one we had was almost to Langworth, so it was a couple of miles,” DeHart said of the fire’s path.

All the fires were along the tracks, which run parallel to Highway 108 and Patterson Road, with several rural roads running north and south between the two main roads.

Oakdale had two engines on scene, while Riverbank, Waterford and the Yosemite station by the Fruityard all sent one, with another engine called in for mutual aid from Escalon. The engines were in addition to the multiple brush trucks and fire investigators that responded to the scene.

About 20 firefighting personnel were involved in the effort as well, as crews worked their way along the railroad right of way to put out the hot spots. DeHart said the firefighting effort was difficult but crews were able to contain the series of fires efficiently.

“It’s tough to get in to the railroad right of way, we had to use the smaller grass and brush trucks so it was more of a challenge,” DeHart explained.

He said crews were able to clear the scene about 1 p.m. but were quickly called to an acre-and-a-half fire off Rodden Road at Red Fox, with another Escalon unit also responding there for mutual aid.