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County strike team en route to fight Mariposa-area fire

August 21, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Twenty-one Imperial Valley firefighters were en route this morning to Northern California to join 1,600 firefighters from throughout the state in battling a brush fire in Mariposa County.

Imperial Valley fire crews received the call at 4:15 this morning requesting that a local strike team be sent to help control the fire, which has burned more than 10,000 acres and is only about 50 percent contained.

Firefighters from El Centro, Brawley, Calexico, Calipatria and Imperial County were on their way this morning to the blaze, deemed the "Creek Fire."

Those departments make up the first strike team when responding to mutual aid calls from out of the county.

A second local strike team is made up of Holtville, Naval Air Facility El Centro and the city of Yuma fire departments, along with crews from Calipatria and Centinela state prisons.

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Those crews are on standby, said El Centro Fire Chief Charles Beard, whose department organizes the local strike teams.

"They are on high-alert mode," Beard said.

The Mariposa County fire is threatening the communities of Cloverland, Coulterville and Greeley Hill.

Beard said about 3,000 residential structures are in danger from the fire, along with 100 commercial buildings. Three houses had been lost to the fire as of this morning.

There were no reports of deaths, but three firefighters have been injured — two from heat-related injuries and a third who suffered a head laceration.

The fire reportedly erupted at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Beard said it is arson.

The California Department of Forestry is in charge of the effort to quell the blaze. Beard said the fire has tapped the majority of the CDF's resources, making it necessary for other fire agencies to join the fight.

"They don't call us unless they're hurting, and they are hurting," Beard said.

Beard said the local strike team could remain on scene through Friday. He said it is expected to take that long to fully contain the fire.

He said while sending crews to fires out of the county takes away local resources, Imperial Valley fire departments work together to make sure local services are maintained.

"We make sure everyone is on alert for mutual aid," Beard said.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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