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March 25, 2023

Weekend blaze was latest in string of river bed fires

The fire in the San Benito River bed last Saturday was among multiple blazes reported in that same area over the summer, a Hollister Fire Department official told San Benito Live. 

The fire Saturday started around 2 p.m. in the river bed near Brigantino Park on the west side of Hollister. It was about 10 acres before Hollister and Calfire crews put it out using ground and air-attack personnel. There were no injuries. 

Although a definitive cause was undetermined as of Wednesday, the fire happened in an area where homeless residents have been camped out, said Hollister Fire Battalion Chief Charlie Bedolla. 

Bedolla said responders had a challenging time with the fire due to the terrain – including thick brush – along with debris dumped by the homeless. 

“It almost makes it a biohazard for us to be down there, too,” Bedolla said. 

There were five engines, a helicopter and hand crew responding to the blaze, as well as three battalion chiefs, he said. 

Bedolla also confirmed there have been multiple other fires up and down the river bed in recent months. He called them “normal, routine fires that happen every year at this time” in the area where homeless residents tend to camp out in the warmer months. 

He said the fire department customarily works with nearby property owners to abate weeds in the area, and they try to keep the debris and trash out. People have been known to start cooking fires in the river bed area, though, and Bedolla said with the high winds locally, it “doesn’t take much for it to start” an out-of-control fire. 

Still, fire department responders were in “rescue mode” when they arrived and made sure nobody was harmed, as no injuries were reported Saturday. With the winds, some engines “almost got burned over,” though. 

“Some guys had to high tail it out of there,” he said, adding how it’s a good thing the department has lighter, mobile equipment.

Video from Saturday’s fire below: