It looks like it will be a “Summer of Discontent” for the residents of Firebaugh.
The city, which borders the San Joaquin River to the east, endured its second serious fire of the season near the river that includes acres of dry brush and dead trees.
The second fire occurred last Tuesday morning as the river bottom on the Madera County side of the river went ablaze and quickly spread through the area.
Madera County firefighters and Firebaugh firefighters responded to the scene. However, gusty winds of about 15 to 20 mph caused the fire to jump the river to the Fresno County side. The fire burned about 80 acres of dry vegetation.
As the fire continued to grow, Fresno County firefighters were called in to assist as homes on the Madera County side bordering the river bottom were evacuated.
Firebaugh Fire Chief John Borboa said that 31 firefighters battled the blaze until midnight, utilizing 11 fire trucks and a bulldozer. Avenue 7 ½ was shut down for several hours as was some residential streets in town.
Fortunately, no homes or structures were damaged. However, some farm equipment on the Madera County side was destroyed, according to Borboa.
“It was a very hard fire to deal with,” Borboa explained. “The wind kept changing direction every 10 minutes, going one way and then another. Everyone did a good job.”
Borboa compared the fire to a river bottom fire in the city of Madera that took place in May. He said a strong wind coming out of the east went right into the backyards of residential homes in that city, destroying two and damaging three more.
After the Madera fire, residents there demanded action to clean up the river bottom and do something about the homeless people living there. Madera city officials received permission from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to disc down weeds and brush and take out trash.
Unfortunately, while Madera residents have been concerned about the situation for years, the city only responded after the tragic fire. As for the homeless, reports state that Madera police are patrolling the river area constantly keeping an eye on any encampments.
“If our wind would have come out of the east, we may have lost some homes along River Lane (in town),” he said.
Looking to the coming summer months, Borboa said that despite two fires, there is still plenty of fuel down along the river that can burn. He is concerned for homes not only bordering the river on River Lane, but also homes along “R” Street and “Q” Street.
“It’s not going to be a good summer,” he said.
The river fire last month in Firebaugh led to the arrest of a woman who police described as homeless and living on the river. She was charged with felony arson.
Firebaugh residents remain concerned, saying that there are still homeless people living next to the river.
The cause to last week’s fire is as yet unknown.