Clovis Fire Department Chief John Binaski briefed the council about the current situation happening with the Dry Creek Fire. Binaski said the fire started at approximately 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4 and that due to it being at night there were no air resources to help combat the fire. Clovis fire department dispatched an engine Saturday at 3 a.m., but the fire grew larger later that day. On Monday, “Broken Arrow” was called and another engine was sent to help combat the fire.
Binaski said that for a fire of this size there is a need for about 3,000 firefighters. However, due to the current fires all around the state there aren’t enough firefighters. He also mentioned that there have been about 60 structures lost in the fire and that two have been commercial structures.
“On the good side, if there is a good side, there has been a lot of good work and a lot of saved structures,” Binaski said. “A lot of really good work went in there or else it would have been a much more significant loss.”
Binaski compared the Creek Fire to the Paradise Fire, saying that Paradise lost 18,000 structures and currently the Creek Fire has only lost 60. He also said that there is still a lot of work to be done and that the fire might not be completely out until October.
Another comment made by Binaski was that the Clovis Fire Department was not asking for or soliciting money through “GoFundme” accounts or any other charity. He asked that if you want to donate or help to please do so at local charities and the local chapter of the Red Cross.
Binaski also mentioned that they were getting help from Clovis PD with the fire and that the city’s Fire Department is continuing to be fully staffed even with the fire. Clovis PD had about eight officers helping out with the evacuations and keeping people out of the area.
Also mentioned by the fire chief was that all of the firefighters working on the Creek Fire have been stationed at Sierra High School, and Clovis North High School has been set up as a receiving center for evacuees.
People have been put up in hotel rooms by the Red Cross, however those with animals have stayed at the parking lot of Clovis North High School.
Binaski said something that has made fighting this fire more difficult was the absence of the state prisoner crews. Due to COVID-19 and recent laws passed there are less non-violent criminals helping out with fires. Binaski praised their work and said that they were well trained, hard working individuals that were a real asset during the fire season.
After a question by Councilmember Ashbeck on how to contain the spread of the fire, Binaski said that due to conditions this was not a normal fire.
“This (fire) isn’t anywhere close to normal…and the conditions are bad everywhere,” Binaski said. “This thing has swirled around going all over the place…it’s splintering out because of fuel load all of the dead trees, topography and the winds.”
Councilmember Bob Whalen asked Binaski about some of the fire spreading down to the city, specifically to Harlan Ranch. Binaski said he can assure everyone that the fire will not get that far out of hand. Binaski mentioned that there are a lot of canals and brakes that can halt the spread of the fire.
He also mentioned that the fuel the fire feeds on is different down here than in the mountains and that the fire won’t burn as hot and it will be easier to control if it does get to the city.
Binaski finished his brief by talking about how the state has a great support system from different agencies helping each other in times of disasters.
“We can’t do it without the help of others…that cooperative ability to help your neighbor in their time of need that’s what we do,” Binaski said. “That’s how we function…what can I do to help you out, get you over the hump and then we’ll figure it out from there.”