Clovis Fire Chief Discusses Efforts and Challenges in Combating Local Wildfires

Engine 44 is one of the great fire engines that calls Clovis Fire Department home. (Photo courtesy of Clovis Fire Department Facebook)

July 2, 2024 — As wildfires continue to rage across the Sierra National Forest, Clovis Fire Chief Ekk provides an in-depth look into the ongoing battle against the flames, highlighting the efforts, challenges, and personal stories of resilience from the front lines.

According to a July 1st press release from the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Basin Fire, the primary focus in the region, has grown to 12,631 acres and remains at 0% containment as of July 2nd. Burning through dry, dense grass within the Rough Fire scar from 2015, the fire has spread significantly on its western edge and northwest corner.

“Currently, the Clovis Fire Department has a total of six (6) personnel assigned to the Basin Fire: one Type III engine with four personnel, one Fireline EMT, and one Training Specialist,” stated Chief Ekk. In total, 879 personnel, including 23 crews, 51 engines, and 7 helicopters, are working tirelessly to contain the blaze. Bulldozers have created contingency lines to form fuel breaks, while spike camps near the fire perimeter reduce travel time for crews, allowing more time on the fire line.

Firefighters managed to contain a spot fire near Lower Rancheria Creek and prevent the fire from spreading further on its northern edge near Rogers Ridge. However, a looming heat wave with temperatures expected to reach 87-93 degrees Fahrenheit will further complicate efforts. An excessive heat warning is in effect from July 2 through July 8.

Chief Ekk emphasized the importance of evacuation orders and road closures. “The public should follow all evacuation orders and respect road closure signs and barriers to prevent potential accidents or interfere with firefighting efforts.” Mandatory evacuations are in place for Fresno County zones K29, K30, K31, and K40, with warnings for zones K41, K61, K166, and K76. These measures are crucial for public safety and to ensure smooth firefighting operations.

“Our crews have the potential of being deployed on incidents for 14 days and sometimes up to 21 days, so they will be away from their families during the July 4 holiday,” Chief Ekk shared. “This is a common occurrence for our personnel when they are deployed and it does put a burden on their families, but our department is like a big family and our personnel support each other and their families when deployed.”

Reflecting on the Creek Fire of 2020, Chief Ekk noted the personal connection firefighters have with the area. “When we have a big fire close to home, like the Creek Fire in 2020, it is a challenge because we have a connection with the area because we visit the area often or we have family or friends who live there. This creates a sense of community for us and we provide as many resources as possible to help our neighbors. One of our firefighters lost their home in the Creek Fire so it was very personal to our department and our department members and families worked together to help them out with items and assistance that they needed. When we have incidents this close to us, we try and provide as many resources that we can without affecting our service here in Clovis to our citizens.”

Looking ahead, new fire restrictions have been implemented to prevent further incidents. The Sierra National Forest has prohibited campfires, welding, and smoking in non-developed campsites. A temporary partial forest closure for the Basin Fire area is also in effect until July 30, 2024.

Public cooperation is essential. The Fresno County Air District has issued an air quality alert due to smoke from the fires affecting the San Joaquin Valley. Residents are advised to stay indoors and use high-efficiency filters to minimize exposure to particulate matter.

As wildfires continue to challenge both the landscape and the community, the dedication and resilience of local firefighters remain unwavering. The collective effort to protect lives, homes, and the natural beauty of the Sierra National Forest underscores the spirit of unity and perseverance in the face of nature’s fury.

For updates and further information, the public is encouraged to visit the Clovis Fire Department Facebook page and the Valley Air website.