SANTA MARGARITA, California — Nearly 200 firefighters have been treated for allergic reactions to poison oak while battling a stubborn blaze that has charred more than 5 square miles of dry brush on California's Central Coast, a fire official said Tuesday.
The dreaded plant is intertwined with chaparral and is so ubiquitous in the steep wilderness of San Luis Obispo County that crews can't avoid it, said Bennett Milloy, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"The vegetation is so thick it's almost a jungle-like environment, and the poison oak is all wrapped up in it," he said. "In some places, it's 12 feet high."
Milloy, who suffered an outbreak himself, said at least 190 firefighters have been treated — but many more likely haven't reported their itchy, oozing symptoms. Several patients had reactions so severe that they required steroid injections, he said.
More than 1,300 personnel are on the scene of the blaze near the town of Santa Margarita. The fire, sparked Aug. 16, is 90 percent contained.
None of the 16 wildfires burning around California is posing serious danger of destruction or fast spread — but that could change this week.
A heating trend with decreased humidity is set to begin and likely will peak Thursday and Friday. With it could come thunderstorms and lightning to inland areas where some of the main fires were burning, the National Weather Service said.
Schools were closed for a second day in the Southern California mountain community where crews battled a small but smoky wildfire burning through timber near a popular ski resort. Firefighters held the blaze in Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains to 100 acres. It was 30 percent contained.
To the northeast, crews made headway against a huge wildfire burning for nearly a month in the Sierra foothills east of Fresno. The 83-square-mile blaze was 21 percent contained.
Fresno County supervisors on Tuesday approved a proclamation requesting emergency funding from Gov. Jerry Brown for help with costs to fight the stubborn fire.