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News Release

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Media Contacts: Steve Lyle, 916-654-0462,,

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Release #09-077
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Sacramento, September 16, 2009 — California’s fairgrounds are well-known for their annual fairs and other events, but they are also playing a key supporting role during the Golden State’s active 2009 wildfire season.

Wildfire response in California is an annual undertaking that calls upon firefighters, emergency response personnel, law enforcement and others to band together to protect lives and homes, structures and possessions from a fearsome force of nature.  California’s fairgrounds fill an important role in this task, often serving as operational centers and providing shelter and sustenance for evacuated livestock, pets and other rescued animals.  The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Division of Fairs and Expositions oversees the state’s 78 fairs and is proud to participate in wildfire response.

“Fairgrounds throughout California are routinely used during emergencies, and the wildfires of 2009 have been no exception,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “California’s fire evacuees have included many livestock, pets and other rescued animals that need the kinds of facilities and care that our fairgrounds can provide.”

California fairgrounds’ support during the 2009 fire season has included the following activities:

The ongoing Station Fire in Los Angeles County is under investigation as an arson/homicide, and has already claimed more than 160,000 acres and pressed approximately one thousand responders into action.  In addition to the many residents forced from their homes and communities, this incident’s evacuees have included 29 goats, 25 horses, seven sheep, three donkeys and one pig that have been sheltered at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster.  The facility is designated as a large-animal evacuation site. Click here for a photographof the smoke plume from the Station Fire as seen from the Big Wheel ride at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster on August 30, 2009.
During the Jesusita Fire in May in Santa Barbara County, the Earl Warren Showgrounds was used as a staging area for fire and law enforcement officials responding to the fire. Approximately 1,200 fire fighters were based at the facility, which also served as a shelter for large, evacuated animals including 120 horses, 20 rabbits, 22 chickens, three roosters, 27 goats, 10 opossums, five parakeets, four pigs, two mules, one feral cat, one donkey, one cockatiel and one llama.  The Showgrounds also hosted the Operational Area Satellite Information System or OASIS 7 that Caltrans staff manages around the clock in the event of an emergency. Housed in a portable trailer and ready to be towed to any area of California where assigned, the OASIS provides 24 banks of telephone lines using a satellite system and 24 electronic connections for computer equipment.
The Lockheed Fire in August claimed 7,817 acres and pressed the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds into service as a fire base camp for 2.400 firefighters.  The site also served as the sheriff’s command center and animal evacuation center.  At the event’s peak, the fairgrounds hosted 50 chickens, 16 horses, 14 llamas, 10 ducks, six goats, six sheep, four geese, two alpacas and one pig,
In August, during the 89,489-acre La Brea Fire in Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria Fairpark housed four evacuated horses.
During the Yuba Fire in the Dobbins/Oregon House area of Yuba County, the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds was base camp for 1,669 firefighters and inmates.  Officials also used the facility as the sheriff’s command center, and both Cal-Fire and the California Conservation Corps stationed personnel at the site.
When the Shu Fire — a complex of approximately 40 fires sparked by lightning — burned 17,623 acres in Shasta County in August, the Shasta Inter-Mountain Fairgrounds in McArthur served as the base camp for 1,500 firefighters and was designated as an evacuation center; fortunately, however, no evacuees needed to be housed at the facility.
The Gold County Fair in Auburn served as camp for approximately 400 firefighters during the 49 Fire in August.  The site was designated as the incident’s large-animal evacuation center, providing overnight shelter for 15 horses.
During the Mammoth Fire in July, the Gold Country Fair also served as a staging facility/camp for 25-30 firefighters and their fire trucks.

The Department of Food & Agriculture’s (CDFA) Division of Fairs & Expositions provides fiscal and policy oversight to the network of California fairs and ensures compliance with laws and regulations, and the best use of available funding and other services. California's 78 fairs are located throughout the Golden State from early spring to the fall of each year. For more information go to


The California Department of Food and Agriculture protects and promotes California’s agriculture.

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814