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Two fires and a BART strike

Things are never quiet for very long in the San Francisco Bay Area. Perhaps that is why we live here.

After a comparatively quiet “fire season” so far, two fires are now burning near the Bay Area. And, although two of the three unions involved in the BART labor negotiations ratified the earlier agreement, a third did not, and “2 out of 3 ain’t good enough” this time….

Right now, there is a fire, the “Lockheed Fire,” burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Over 2800 acres have burned, over 2400 people have been evacuated, and the fire is zero per cent contained. The folks who have been evacuated are from the towns of Bonny Doon and Swanton. More than 300 fire fighters are trying to contain the Lockheed Fire. Although winds in the area have been increasing this afternoon, the weather forecast calls for calm winds tonight with patchy low clouds and fog tomorrow, which would aid fire fighting efforts.

The second fire burning right now is the “Corral Fire” that is burning in the Corral Hollow Road and Tesla Road areas between Livermore and Tracy. (Everyone practice saying “corral.”) :-) The fire has already burned over 1000 acres and is 10% contained. The fire is located near Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s Site 300 explosives test area. The Corral Fire is fanned by 30 mph winds (the fire is in the Altamont, where all of those windmills are!) and is spreading toward Tracy and threatening local ranches. Twenty-two firefighters from San Joaquin County were dispatched earlier to the Lockheed Fire, and now they are needed for the Corral Fire. CalFire ordered two more air tankers and two helicopters to fight the Corral Fire around 3:30 PM today, since the steep canyon walls of the area make the fire hard to reach for most firetrucks.

Today the BART board voted to implement “terms and conditions” on the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555, which has not ratified the earlier agreement, basically forcing a contract on these ATU workers. The other two unions ratified the agreement, so they cannot picket, but they will honor the picket lines of ATU, which is scheduled to strike beginning at midnight on Sunday, August 16. The strike was announced by ATU union head, Jesse Hunt, for “Sunday evening at the close of business.”

A strike would affect hundreds of thousands of people who use BART every day.

Things are never boring here….

(Note added August 15, 2009: As of last night’s news, BOTH of these fires were still burning and were receiving additional resources. The winds in Livermore were VERY strong yesterday, no doubt “fanning the flames” of the Corral Fire, which had burned over 15,000 acres. Since the location of the Corral Fire is so unpopulated, large animals (horses, etc.), rather than people, needed evacuation. The largest firefighting airplane in California’s arsenal is being used to fight the Corral Fire. Also, there is a wildfire burning in Southern California and one north of the Bay Area. In comparison to the HUNDREDS of fires last year, this “fire season” is still mild, but California has hot and dry conditions for months to come.)

(Note added August 16, 2009: When we were in Lathrop yesterday, we saw two propeller-driven planes overhead with CalFire markings. A local firefighter told us that they fly to Stockton‘s airport to refuel and then turn around to fight the Corral Fire [still burning yesterday]. As for the BART Strike, the last that I heard was that the sides were at least back to the negotiation table yesterday, a very good thing, indeed!)

(Note added August 17, 2009: I have only good news to report today. The BART strike is OFF as of last evening. Workers still must ratify the new agreement. The Corral Fire was 100% contained yesterday, and the Lockheed Fire was 50% contained yesterday. Firefighters reported that they now have enough resources for the Lockheed Fire, which is a good thing, since there are still a couple other fires happening in California.)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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