Bally Fire totals: 100 acres, $1 million

Aftermath of the Bally fire

The Bally fire, which started Sept. 3, was 100 percent contained the following Monday at a cost of close to $1 million, according to Gilroy Fire Chief Alan Anderson. Police have since reported the blaze was set by four teens using illegal fireworks. The case has been referred to District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s office for prosecution.
“This was a significant event for us, being on a holiday weekend and during one of the hottest periods in Gilroy,” Chief Anderson told the city council Monday night. “It was 700 feet past Ballybunion Court, so that meant we couldn’t use our four-wheel drive apparatus and we had to have our firefighters hike up to the scene.”
Further complicating the job was the steepness of the terrain, which precluded the use of bulldozers from most of the area around the fire. In addition to one firefighter who was injured, six others were treated for cases of poison oak.
GFD Division Chief Chris Weber was on the scene in six minutes and 58 seconds after the first call came in during Labor Day weekend. Engine 48 out of the Las Animas Station followed within a minute of Weber.
“This was a challenge for us because we are also battling other incidents in the state, so our county has sent out the maximum amount of resources that are allowed to go,” Chief Anderson said. “At the height of the event, we had 296 personnel on the scene.”
Along with Cal Fire, crews of firefighters came from as far as Santa Barbara and Alameda counties and as near as Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Anderson noted that the Filice family allowed their property on Santa Teresa and Ballybunion to be used as a helicopter base and an equipment staging area at no charge.
Firefighters at the GFD had to tighten their belts, having only had a noontime meal on the Sunday of the fire until they were able to be supplied to eat 12 hours later. The residents at Ballybunion Court were on the job. They baked cookies and fed those off to and back from the fire line on Eagle Ridge.
Firefighters laid six miles of hose lines; Cal Fire helicopters dropped over 100,000 gallons of water on the fire, one mobile kitchen unit served over 40 agencies. The work isn’t done yet.
“We’ve moved into the restoration phase,” Chief Anderson said. “Once the fire is out, Cal Fire comes in and attempts to erase all of the fire damage but also the things we did to control the fire.”
The GFD needs to collect 30,000 feet of fire hose to uncouple, wash, dry and reroll in time for the next emergency.
A note from neighbor Lois Thorne, of Mesa Ranch summed up the public’s response.
“Kudos to all the firefighters that put out the fire behind Eagle Ridge. I don’t know how much they make, but it isn’t enough!! Thanks so much.”

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