Overseeing the Tracy team at the fire, known as the Rim Fire, are Division Chief Andy Kellogg and Capt. Scott Arganbright. The strike team includes Capt. Dan Havicus, engineer Rubin Cortinas and firefighters Jeff Brown and Ray Gonzalez.
The fire, which started Aug. 17, is the second worst in the state’s history. It had engulfed 192,737 acres and destroyed at least 11 homes and 97 other buildings as of Thursday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Three commercial properties had been damaged.
The fire was 30 percent contained on Thursday, according to the department.
Tracy firefighters were called to join fire crews from Manteca, Lodi, Stockton and Woodbridge to create a mutual aid strike team on Aug. 21, according to Kellogg.
Each strike team consists of five engines and a team leader.
Since its arrival, the Tracy team has been assigned to structure protection in Pine Mountain Lake and Mi-Wuk Village, outside the town of Groveland in Tuolumne County.
“It’s a week into it and it’s going good,” Kellogg said on Wednesday. “The fire is coming over Duckwall Ridge to the east of here (Mi-Wuk Village) and working its way to Tuolumne River. They’re confident they can hold it at the river.”
During a briefing Tuesday, Aug. 27, Kellogg said firefighters worked overnight to link more than 50 miles of bulldozers, intending to stop the fire in its tracks.
As the fire moved towards Mi-Wuk Village, Kellogg and his team worked with residents to prepare their properties in case the fire reached their community.
“We told our guys do whatever they (residents) want and told the people to ask them for whatever they needed,” he said. “Our guys have been going around helping the residents clear their properties of debris, trimming bushes back and clearing roofs.”
To show their gratitude, Kellogg said, residents have been treating the fire crews like family and providing them with water and food.
“They feel a lot safer with the guys roaming around,” he said. “They’re waving at us, happy to see us, happy we can help. It’s been nothing but acceptance and kindness.”
Kellogg anticipated that his team would remain at the Rim Fire for its full two-week deployment — which should end sometime next week.
“Containment is coming up a bit, but fire is still spreading,” Kellogg said.
Capt. Eric Oliveri, of the Tracy Fire Department, was called to oversee a local strike team for the Bridges fire on Aug. 17, but he was reassigned to the Rim Fire on Aug. 18.
Oliveri is working structure protection at Long Barn Village in Tuolumne County, but he is scheduled to end his strike team assignment on Friday, Aug. 30, according to Tracy Fire Division Chief Dave Bramell.
Also working wildfires in other parts of the state is Tracy paramedic Kevin Meineke, who flew with a hotshot crew into the wilderness on Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Siskiyou Fire in Klamath National Forest.
Bramell said Meineke was assigned to the team to provide medical aid to firefighters on the frontline in remote areas. He said this is the second year Cal Fire has used fire-line paramedics during wildfire season.
For updates on the Rim Fire, go to www.inciweb.org/incident/3660/.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or email@example.com.