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Getting Answers: Why Were Some Firefighters Turned Away From Assisting With Electra Fire?

MOKELUMNE HILL (CBS13) — Containment has grown on the Electra Fire after it initially tripled in size over a span of 24 hours. One Calaveras fire department was left wondering why they weren't called up to contribute to firefighting efforts.

Bill Wennhold is chief of the Central Calaveras Fire and Rescue Protection District. They run five stations that cover 126 acres of steep mountain terrain and they operate 11 pieces of equipment.

"We recognize we are always in a high fire danger zone," Wennhold said.

The Butte Fire ripped through their region in 2015 and took out more than 1,100 homes. So when the Electra Fire broke out Monday, they went on high alert wanting to fight the fire that was burning thousands of acres right in their backyard.

But that didn't happen.

"They told us at that point they did not have an assignment for us in their resource directory but that were still available on focusing on what we could do for the community," Wennhold said.

The chief said it was a bit surprising when they were asked to stand down.

"[We were] surprised to a certain degree but [we were] also recognizing in the dynamics of rapidly evolving events it takes some time to connect all the dots and make sure you have all the tools in the right places," Wennhold said.

Cal Fire says the first priority is safety for the community and the crews fighting the fire. That's why when a fire starts, there's one dispatch center.

"Resource tracking, resource accountability is paramount. In this particular case, the fire spotted across the Mokelumne River into Calaveras County and the Tuolumne-Calaveras County ranger unit," said Cal Fire spokesperson Chris Vestal. "That means it was also in the south region and it's a little bit different ordering process when you have two regions."

As the fire expanded, so did resources. Late Tuesday night, the Calaveras fire unit was called into action.

"We got an evening assignment to the fire on Highway 26 now that are indirect assignment to cal fire. We still have our local stuff that's here to protect the rest of the community from the normal incidents," Wennhold said.

"We still have them on the scene -we are still cooperating with them and are very appreciative of the assistance they have provided

Cal Fire says it will be all hands on deck when it comes to firefighting efforts and getting the Electra Fire under control.

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