The UC Davis Fire Department joined other fire agencies Thursday afternoon (Nov. 8) in stopping a wind-whipped brush fire short of the university’s California National Primate Research Center off Russell Boulevard west of Highway 113.
The center’s staff evacuated, by order of campus Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht, as firefighters battled the fire that broke out shortly before 4 p.m. Once the center was out of danger, a skeleton crew returned to care for the animals.
Officials said the fire started across Russell Boulevard from the center, at the Russell Ranch horse boarding facility, where flames destroyed a large barn. (The horse boarding facility is privately owned; UC Davis’ Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility is farther west on Russell Boulevard.)
UC Davis veterinary staff responds
UC Davis’ veterinary personnel evaluated 12 to 20 horses that had been turned out into a corral at the boarding facility. None suffered injuries in the fire, said Distinguished Professor John Madigan, who leads the Veterinary Emergency Response Team, or VERT. Personnel from the Center for Equine Health and the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s Equine Field Service joined VERT at the scene.
While veterinarians worked in the field, hospital personnel began preparing for triage of injured horses and also set up stalls for them — although, in the end, none of that was needed.
The fire jumped Russell Boulevard onto UC Davis property, where fire crews stopped the flames before they got inside the primate center fence “It was pretty hairy for a bit,” Chief Trauernicht said. “I ordered the evacuation of the primate center and we were able to stop the fire before it reached the fence line. We also were able to quickly get critical primate staff back in the building quickly to start attending to the animals.”.
Campus fire crew in Butte County
The fire struck on a day that brought a red-flag warning across much of the north state. Earlier Thursday, the campus Fire Department sent fire engine E234 and a crew to the Camp Fire, which burned through the town of Paradise.
“Losses in the area are substantial,” Chief Trauernicht said this morning, relaying a report from the E234 crew.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, in a midmorning update today (Nov. 9), estimated 2,000 structures had been destroyed and 15,000 were threatened. The fire had covered 70,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained. Cal Fire reported injuries to three firefighters, none to civilians.
The UC Davis crew comprises Cess Mercado, captain; Derek Carthy, engineer; and Mike Cullen and Lindsey Dubs, firefighters. “Due to resource limitations, they are assigned to a 48-hour shift on structure defense at this time,” Trauernicht said.
UC Davis Health reported admitting seven burn inpatients from the Camp Fire. “We send our support to those impacted by the fire and those fighting the fire,” the health system said in a tweet this morning. “We are here to help our sister hospitals Enloe Medical Center, Oroville Hospital and Rideout Regional Medical Center if they need us.”
VERT and the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital also remain on alert to respond to the Camp Fire and-or take in animals from the fire. The School of Veterinary Medicine is posting updates here.
Extra staffing on red-flag days
The state issues red-flag warnings when winds and low humidity bring high fire danger — high because of the propensity for fires to spark in dry brush, combined with winds that can speed the spread of fires.
On such days, Trauernicht said, “We staff an additional piece of apparatus because of the increased threat.” So his department had the personnel on hand to send its reserve engine to Butte County, while also having the right amount of staff for the primary fire engine, ladder truck and brush fire truck.
The department dispatched the brush truck and ladder truck to the Russell Boulevard fire. Other agencies responding to the fire: Davis, Dixon, West Sacramento, Winters, Woodland and West Plainfield.