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Corral Fire Kicks Off 2024 Fire Season

Updated: Jun 03, 2024 09:35
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The Corral fire’s estimated boundaries, per CalFire, June 2024.

2024’s fire season is already underway. 

A wildfire roughly sixty miles east of the city near Tracy, has burned about twenty square miles of grassland. The fire consumed homes and vehicles as it approached Tracy, although no lives have been lost as of Sunday. Ample warning gave residents sufficient time to evacuate before the fire cut off access to important escape routes. Caltrans closed Interstate 580 briefly Sunday morning as the fire advanced towards the roadway; the route has since reopened.

Named the Corral fire, it is the first significant fire event of the season for the Bay Area. Flames first sprung up Saturday afternoon east of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The fire is unrelated to any research activity. Its rapid spread urged Caltrans to shut down Interstate 580 from Corral Hollow Road to Interstate 5. Emergency Services ordered an evacuation for areas of San Joaquin County south of Corral Hollow Creek to Stanislaus County and west to Alameda County. 

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A grim sign

Until now, I assumed the plentiful rains we had over winter would keep the fires under control. Trees are green, the Sierras still snowcapped and our reservoirs are full. It’s great news for our water crisis, and with the conservatory practices we’ve learned, we can make our supply last. But these backups aren’t just for drinking water. I forget we keep our reservoirs filled so we can dump their contents on our burning fields and forests. 

More than a month has passed since rain last fell in any appreciable amounts in the Bay Area. The hillsides have already dried up, turning greenery to fuel. Sunday’s forecast for Tracy called for highs in the mid-80s with persistent winds around 30 MPH, ideal conditions for spreading fire. Hotter temperatures are in store for San Joaquin County, with highs forecast up to 107℉. 

The Corral fire’s early appearance and hungry spread signal that conditions are ripe for wildfires across the Bay Area. It’s laughable that we would rather extinguish the fires we cause instead of properly managing the lands they threaten. That’s what prizing private property and ownership over stewardship does to society, I suppose. It’s a landowner’s problem, as if fire doesn’t move. The Corral fire is still burning. Thick black smoke and high winds make firefighting efforts even more challenging. CalFire reported that at one time, 400 personnel were attempting to control the blaze. 

Firefighting efforts saved this San Joaquin County home from destruction. Image by CalFire Santa Clara Unit.

By Sunday morning, the Corral fire had blackened over 12,500 acres.

The fire line resembles an erupting volcanic fissure from the air. Bulldozer operators are clearing brush for firebreaks and pushing earth in its path. Meanwhile, officials established an evacuation center at the Larch Clover Community Center at 11157 West Larch Road in Tracy, California. By Sunday morning, the Corral fire had blackened over 12,500 acres, a threefold increase from the 450 first reported. By the afternoon, that number jumped to 14,000. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Two firefighters have sustained injury so far in the efforts to fight the gust-driven blaze. CalFire Battalion Chief Josh Silveira described their injuries as mild to moderate burns. One firefighter was Medevacked to a San Jose hospital, the other transported to a local facility. Chief Silveira expects both to make full recoveries. The Corral fire is, according to the Associated Press, at thirty percent containment. 

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.