UC Davis Crews Fight Carr and Ferguson Fires

The Carr Fire in Redding.
UC Davis fire Capt. Steve Dunn sent this photo back from the Carr Fire last week, on a day when he spent 14 hours on an operation to burn three miles of fire lines. (Steve Dunn/UC Davis)

Updated noon Tuesday: UC Davis crews continue to fight on the front lines of the deadly fires raging across the state.


A view of wildfire smoke from space.
A view from space of the wildfire smoke in the region. (NASA)

Wildfire smoke wafting into the region has led to a nearly two-week string of Spare the Air days, with air quality agencies warning of unhealthy conditions since July 27.

“Particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause short term health issues while worsening existing health conditions,” Mat Ehrhardt, an air pollution control officer with the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, said in an advisory effective through Friday.

Capt. Steve Dunn and his multiagency task force at the Carr Fire in Redding were “instrumental in saving large portions of the town” of French Gulch Saturday (Aug. 4), UC Davis Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht said. Dunn and an engine from Tracy were also the responding firefighters to a vehicle accident that claimed the life of a PG&E apprentice lineman working to restore power, Trauernicht said.

Farther south, campus firefighters have been at work on the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite since July 16, when Brush Truck 34 arrived with a four-person crew. After 14 days, the maximum deployment, a second campus crew took over.

Now the second crew — Capt. Tait Nilsson, engineer Kyle Dubs, and firefighters Gerrit Dykzeul and Ryan Tooley — is nearing its maximum deployment time and will come home next week.

Trauernicht said no decision had been made on whether a third UC Davis team would be sent to fight the blaze, which CalFire said this morning had covered more than 91,000 acres and was 38 percent contained.

“We are having those conversations now,” he said.


Original post July 30: UC Davis firefighters are on the front lines of an exceptional fire season, battling wildfires hundreds of miles from one another while still keeping campus safe.

“I haven’t seen this kind of fire since I was deployed in SoCal in 2007,” said Chief Nate Trauernicht. “I’m not sure where the end is, but it’s not in sight at the moment.”


The four-person team assigned to the Ferguson Fire  July 16-30:

  • Capt. David Stiles
  • Engineer Paul Rush
  • Firefighter Lindsey Dubs
  • Firefighter Mike Cullen

The new crew taking their places:

  • Capt. Tait Nilsson
  • Engineer Kyle Dubs
  • Firefighter Gerrit Dykzeul
  • Firefighter Ryan Tooley

Four campus firefighters in Brush Truck 34 have completed a second week battling the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite — the maximum amount of time they can stay out — and are today (July 30) coming home, replaced by a fresh crew, also from campus.

That group, dealing with what Trauernicht described as “incredibly tough terrain,” was most recently assigned to a group using a bulldozer to fight the fire. The Ferguson Fire is nearly 57,000 acres and 30 percent contained, CalFire reported this morning.

Meanwhile, Capt. Steve Dunn left Friday (July 26) for the Carr Fire in Redding, where he is now leading a task force of firefighters from the Sacramento and nearby foothill regions.

That blaze is nearing 99,000 acres and is 20 percent contained, CalFire said this morning.

On top of that, UC Davis’ Engine 34 was part of an initial, overnight response to the Steele Fire on the south shore of Lake Berryessa over the weekend (July 27-28). Those firefighters — Capt. Cess Mercado, engineer Derek Carthy, firefighter Gerrit Dykzeul and student firefighter Jack Casarez — returned to campus Sunday morning (July 28), and the fire was 135 acres and 75 percent contained as of this morning (July 30), according to CalFire.


Although the Carr Fire is many miles from campus, it has affected air quality in the region. The Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District and other regional agencies called a Spare the Air alert for Tuesday (July 31), the fifth such alert in a row, owing to smoke from the fire and high temperatures.

The various responses have at times left campus firefighters “spread very, very thin,” but it’s no cause for concern, Trauernicht said.

Truck 34 always remained on campus, fully staffed and ready to respond to calls. And fire dispatchers automatically request aid from departments in Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland, Winters, Yocha Dehe and Dixon when needed.

But that backup doesn’t mean firefighters returning from fighting wildfires around the state are guaranteed long rests before heading back to work. The crew assigned to the Ferguson Fire was required to rest for 24 hours before heading home, but may need to head straight back to work if they’re needed.

“This is part of being a firefighter in California,” Trauernicht said.

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