EXCLUSIVE: Crews burn hills along Mines Canyon to protect Livermore from SCU Complex Fire

There is concern among firefighters battling the SCU Lightning Complex Fires that the incoming dry lightning could create new blazes as they work to hold the line at Mines Road in Livermore.

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Monday, August 24, 2020
SCU Lightning Complex Fire: Crews work to hold line as blaze nears Livermore
ABC7 News was at Mines Road in Livermore on Sunday, where one of firefighters' top priorities is to stop the fire from spreading to protect Livermore.

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- The SCU Lightning Complex is burning close to 340,000 acres in five northern California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara in the Bay Area, as well as San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

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"It's a large footprint for a fire. It's going to be the second or third largest in state history, most likely," explains Joshua Rubinstein with CAL FIRE.

There is concern the incoming weather could create new fires and tax already exhausted firefighters.

"I cannot reiterate the magnitude of how long this incident can go and our troops are exhausted," said CAL FIRE Santa Clara Unit Chief Jake Hess. "If you look at the map, look at over 300,000 acres spread out and now with seven counties with two additional counties starting to look at this incident as it gets closer... the life safety component is our number one priority for this incident."

ABC7 News got an exclusive look at the firefight from Mines Road in Livermore Sunday.

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Firefighters say this fire is burning everywhere. If the winds pick up later Sunday, they say it doesn't matter which direction the wind blows - it will move this fire.

Fire officials say the strategy is to "fight fire with fire" by burning out the fuel along the hills in Mines Canyon, which creates a blackened barrier that may stop the fires of SCU Lightning Complex from advancing.

The fires that make up the SCU Lightning Complex are burning on both sides of Mines Canyon in unincorporated Alameda County.

Fire officials point out that, right now, the fire is about 17 miles away from Livermore city limits. But, with lightning storms and strong winds expected Sunday night, that situation can quickly change - especially if the fires come together.

"So that, as the fires come together further south, we're not sending fire down this canyon, down Mines Road," said Alameda Co. Fire Dept. Batt. Chief Matthew Portteus. "We have a lot of residents, a lot of ranchers, a lot of homes and property down here that we want to protect. That's our mission today."

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Along with fire crews, bulldozers cleared vegetation along the valley as the fire rages on both sides of Mines Canyon.

Meanwhile, evacuation warnings have been issued for parts of Alameda County, which includes the Mines Road area.

Clayton Westrope is part of three generations that run a 650-acre ranch in the valley. The family is preparing for a possible evacuation.

"We have a (bulldozer) up here, we have a water truck. Just been pushing dirt, making sure all the trees are trimmed, and everything around the house is not burnable," says Westrope. "Hold here until we can't no more."

Fire crews will monitor the fire around to the clock, trying to hold the line.

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