Oct. 05--STOCKTON -- Stockton and county firefighters Thursday dealt with the largest-scale related fires since the 2008 Quail Lakes blaze after a recycling plant went up in flames and released embers toward east and south parts of the county.
The chain of fires damaged a recycling plant, a French Camp home; caused a temporary shutdown of the Crosstown Freeway, Interstate 5 and a railroad a mile south at Anderson Street.
It took most of the city's fire resources and required assistance from county responders, Stockton Fire Department operator Matt Harris said.
"We were pulling everybody in, essentially," he said. "Between the recycling plant and the ensuing fires related to the recycling plant, it pretty much stripped the city of fire apparatus."
Despite the magnitude of the fires, no one was injured.
All the burning locations were contained by Friday, but two fire engines and one truck remained at the Newark Recycling & Recovery plant monitoring and applying water where needed.
"We're in pretty good shape at the recycling plant," Harris said. "So far, we haven't had anything else in that area."
The initial fire started about 2:30 p.m. outdoors in the 800 block of West Church Street and crept into the plant, igniting highly flammable paper and cardboard.
The inferno caused two large propane tanks to explode and bales of hay and several tractor-trailers to catch fire.
Clouds of smoke grayed the skies and caused the temporary closure of downtown freeways.
A mile south from the main burning site, old railroad ties were set on fire and part of a railway was damaged. Metal debris from the propane tanks may have contributed to that event, according to the Stockton Fire Department.
Embers carried by 30 mph winds hit a home in the 3200 block of South Fairmont Street, damaging the residence and displacing a senior couple. Their son and their daughter-in-law also live with them but had left on vacation.
The older couple moved in as newlyweds in 1965 and lived there for 48 years.
Smaller fires also were spread along the path of the embers.
The series of blazes required more than 40 firefighters from the city, eight fire engines and three trucks. Seven firefighters stayed at the plant all night.
"We only have 12 engines in the city, and we were using all of our trucks, Harris said.
Other fire stations from the county assisted the department, including an air support unit to fill firefighters' breathing air cylinders.
Harris said he was not aware if response services for other unrelated incidents were affected as a result.
Other agencies and organizations that responded include the American Red Cross and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
BNSF and Central California Traction Co. shut down rail service for a few hours to replace ties.
"It was definitely a large-scale event for us," Harris said, agreeing that it was the biggest fire incident since the 2008 Quail Lakes Fire in Stockton, which destroyed numerous homes along a fence near Interstate 5 and others in Stockton and displaced many families.
In Thursday's chain of fires, "no one was injured, and that was a good thing," Harris said. "We were able to quickly address some of the more important needs."
Harris said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He did not yet have estimates of the damages. Harris said the agencies involved were able to prevent further spread. They communicated and cooperated well.
"The agencies did a good job," he said.
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