Fire season has gotten off to an intense beginning, with a record heat wave and a lightning storm setting off a multitude of fires statewide and across the Bay Area, spurring evacuations and an evacuation watch inside Milpitas…
The fire that’s most impacting Milpitas is called The SCU Lightning Complex, which is actually about 20 fires in one, burning across steep and bumpy terrain, much of which has never seen fires ever before. Low humidity and high temperatures are making the blaze difficult to contain. As of this writing, according to www.fire.ca.gov, containment is estimated to be only 5%, following a full day of active burning.
The unincorporated areas near The SCU Lightning Complex east of Ed Levin County Park, Felter Road, and Sierra Road were all subject to a swift evacuation order.
Meanwhile, until August 21, residents residing east of Piedmont Road, Evans Road, and North Park Victoria Drive — an area which includes Vista Ridge Drive, Country Club Drive, and Downing Road — are on an evacuation watch, and should be packed and ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. This means having a set destination to evacuate to, as well as gathering 3 days’ worth of clothing, medicine, and food, along with any important paperwork and documents. It also means informing friends/loved ones of your evacuation destination.
Residents can sign up for text, email, and/or telephone updates about the fires and any evacuation measures at www.alertscc.com.
In an interview with The Milpitas Beat, Spring Valley Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Larry Ciardella said, “The problem is, there’s so many fires going on, that there’s no resources available.” In other words, we can’t lean on the state since their water supply and manpower are stretched in so many different directions.
Asked about The SCU Lightning Complex being 5% contained, Ciardella said, “I think that’s too high.” In his judgment, per his ground-level view, the fire isn’t contained at all. “It’s running the ridge right now, and it’s all the way to Mount Hamilton Road, and it jumped that yesterday, and it’s gotten into Coe Park from what I understand.”
A 52-year resident of Milpitas, Ciardella has seen and fought his share of fires. His prediction? “It’s probably gonna burn ‘til it burns itself out…I think it’s just gonna run its course.” In the meantime, firefighters have been building “backfires,” intentionally lit fires meant to absorb and control the natural fires so they’ll stop traveling unpredictably. Likewise, firefighters have been lining up bulldozers to pour dirt atop the grass, so as to lower the amount of greenery that can catch fire.
In regard to residents’ concerns about evacuating or losing their homes and property, Ciardella said, “It depends on the wind,” which keeps on changing. “If it heads west, that’s what they’re worried about.”
Sounding a relative note of optimism, he then added, “I’ve never seen any wind go towards town, so to speak. But you know — you never know, right?”
As of this writing, according to www.airnow.gov, Milpitas’ air quality is listed as Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups, meaning seniors, young children, or those with heart or lung disease should stay indoors and avoid exerting themselves if they have to move around outdoors.
Meanwhile, the face-covering rules implemented in Milpitas due to the COVID-19 pandemic remain in full effect.
Before Ciardella headed back out to fight the fires, The Beat asked him how this current fire event compares with the others he’s confronted. Without hesitation, he said, “This has gotta be number one.”