Gilroy firefighters assisting with 60,000 acre wildfire east of Redding

Brush fire burning 20 acres in northeast Morgan Hill

Four Gilroy firefighters are combating Chips Fire this week, a 68,582 acre wildfire blazing through the mountains east of Red Bluff, near Lassen National Park.
Captain Marc Stelling, Engineer Cliff Colyer, and Firefighters Robert Silvia and Tomas Faddis were sent Sunday to replace four other Gilroy firefighters who had been on three fire assignments in Northern California since Aug. 14, Fire Chief Colin Martin said.
The men are working from Engine 73, a small four-wheel drive engine designed for combating wildfires in rough terrain, Martin said.
Chips Fire, which is currently 65 percent contained, began July 29 and is using more than 1,500 personnel as of Monday morning, according to federal fire reports. The Gilroy team has been focused on “mopping up,” or wetting and cleaning areas of smoldering earth where the fire has already swept though, and “back firing” which is a method of containing a fire by starting another one to cause the wildfire to burned toward the controlled fire rather than continue in another direction.  
Martin said he is not sure how long the Gilroy team will be deployed, but suspects they will be back before Sept. 1 – which happens to be the day after federal fire reports estimate Chips Fire will be fully contained.
“They don’t want to hold onto us too long, because the dollars ring up for everybody. When they can cut us loose, they’ll cut us loose,” Martin said.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared Tehama, Shasta and Plumas counties in a state of emergency Aug. 24 due to the costs and damages caused by the Ponderosa and Chips wildfires.
The announcement makes state funding available to offset local costs to combat the fires, and came just days after Tehama County Sheriff Dave Hencratt declared a local state of emergency.
As of noon Friday, CalFire said 64 residences and 20 outbuildings have been destroyed by the lightning-caused blaze that was ignited on Aug. 18.
The strike team that Gilroy firefighters have been assigned to is made up of a pack of different fire departments, including Oakland Fire Department, Aptos/La Selva Fire Protection District, Vallejo Fire Department, Livermore/Pleasanton Fire Department and the Petaluma Coast Guard.
“We usually don’t mix counties like that on a strike team, but when your resources are stretched thin throughout the state, you make up what you can,” Martin said.  
Martin said the deployed firefighters have been facing dusty, steep terrain, and poison oak in hot, windy weather.
“It’s very strenuous work,” Martin said.

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