A fire near Yosemite National Park erupted Friday, quickly spreading to the point where local agencies could not control it alone. In accordance with the California Mutual Aid agreement, agencies from across the state have sent resources to battle what's now the largest fire the state has seen this year.
Burning a path of destruction through a torrid tinderbox of wildland in northern California, the extreme drought and hard-to-reach terrain has allowed for the Oak Fire to incinerate everything in its path. Scorching almost 17,000 acres, the blaze is only 10 percent contained as of Monday morning.
San Luis Obispo County jumped at the call, sending manpower, engines, dozers, and any equipment possible. CAL FIRE launched a strike team that includes five engines and 22 firefighters. That's coupled with the local government strike team which incorporates resources from the Five Cities, Morro Bay, Camp Roberts, City of San Luis Obispo, and CAL FIRE SLO.
"We sent a type one engine with personnel on it as part of a strike team and they're assigned typically for structure protection," explained Morro Bay Fire Chief Daniel McCrain.
Depending on the fire behavior, those assignments can change. Topography often causes hand crews to be utilized where engines can't reach. Each of the participating agencies contributed an engine and a team of three to four firefighters. The aid teams are committed for a minimum of 21 days. Local personnel are on the front lines aiding in any way possible for 24-hour shifts.
An uphill battle since its inception, heat and rugged terrain are not making things easy for crews on the front lines.
"It's been a real tough fight due to the dry conditions, the low humidity. It has contributed to a lot of extreme fire behavior and we’ve been witnessing a lot of long-range spotting and at the beginning of this fire, it's been very difficult," said Daniel Solis, CAL FIRE SLO Public Information Officer.
While still nowhere near full containment, CAL FIRE believes they are making progress. They hope to reach full containment by July 30.