SAN DIEGO — The Santa Monica Fire Department has deployed two engine companies as part of a regional strike team to assist with the Cocos fire in San Diego.
According to Deputy Chief Tom Clemo, the two local teams were dispatched as part of Strike Team XLA-1075A with other resources from Beverly Hills, Culver City and the Los Angeles fire departments. The Strike Teams arrived at the staging location at Cal State San Marcos at 10:24 a.m. Thursday, and were immediately placed into an active division providing structure defense.
Clemo said the state has a detailed mutual aid agreement that allows officials to order pre-designated resources from fire agencies statewide. In this case, Santa Monica sent two standard engine companies but the department also has specialized equipment and specially trained personnel that could be called upon depending on the situation.
He said residents wouldn’t notice any disruption in service as backfill crews were immediately called in to staff reserve apparatus.
“We will not send out crews if we can’t backfill because the priority is here,” he said. “That’s an evaluation we make, if we can’t protect here we won’t leave.”
Clemo said the state deployment could last up to two weeks.
“When they go, they commit to up to a 14 day deployment, the reality is really is a day by day evaluation of what’s going on, not only on the fire they’re on but in the region,” he said.
Firefighters are battling nine fires throughout San Diego County. A flare-up on May 15 prompted more than 13,000 new evacuation notices in the San Marcos area. The new evacuations were in addition to more than 20,000 orders issued Wednesday. About 85,000 people live in San Marcos.
Since the first blazed erupted May 13 during a heat wave, officials have repeatedly predicted the worst was over only to be confronted by a new challenge amid the hot, dry and windy conditions.
The fires have destroyed eight houses, an 18-unit condominium complex and two businesses and burned more than 15 square miles, causing more than $20 million in damage so far.
The local teams joined a growing number of firefighting resources deployed to the area. Emergency officials said a significant number of firefighting aircraft had become available, including four air tankers and 22 military helicopters, in addition to local agency helicopters.
Ten of the military helicopters were being used to battle a blaze that grew to 9.37 square miles on the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton. Despite its growth, the fire was 20 percent contained and was no longer considered a threat to communities.
Twelve other military helicopters were available.
Since the fires began, 125,000 evacuation notices have been sent, officials said. Schools also have been shut down and the Legoland amusement park had to close temporarily.
Officials said a Carlsbad-area blaze that has been the most destructive so far was 75 percent contained and had burned 400 acres.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.