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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Immediate Need Strike Team

At about 1330 on Saturday we heard CalFire engines 3586 and 3560 get toned out to a vegetation fire. We quickly went to the back of our station and looked toward Yucca Valley. There we saw a "header" or column of smoke. We figured since we were close that we would soon be getting toned out for the fire. We put on our brush gear and started heading in that direction. We got as far as station 462 (yes our small department had two stations) and stopped. We waited there for the call for a while. It was only a couple of acres at this point.

What we saw from station 462 while we were waiting to get called. By now it was up to 20 acres or so.

It got bigger. Now about 100 acres.

And bigger. About 200 acres.

Eric was texting people basically saying "ha ha! We're getting a fire." We were bored and anxious.

Finally we got toned out with several other engines as an immediate need strike team. This means that there are now homes in imminent danger and we need to hurry. We had wasted a couple of hours waiting. Here we are approaching the command post for orders.

Our strike team was assigned to structure protection at the head of the fire. In this photo my engine was getting assigned to protect one house at the end of a culdesac while engine 451 (from 29 Palms Marine Base) was assigned to protect the House just North of us.

Engine 451. Photo taken from our tailboard.

The crew for engine 451 ready to go.

This is a shot of our protection line. This is used if the crap hits the fan and is only used to protect us. The other line is set up to protect the house. We also had our exact GPS coordinated to give to the helicopters if we needed them.

This is the home that we were protecting. The guy in the white shirt and blue jeans is Bob. He is the home owner. Since this was my first time defending someones home I thought that I'd introduce myself. He and his neighbors went and bought a bunch of water for us.

This is the fire coming toward us. Luckily the house we were protecting had great brush clearance. It makes our job almost boring (not quite). That's our structure protection line going out in front of Bob's house.

The fire just as it reaches the ridge.

It was surreal being there. Having watched multiple brush fires on TV and seeing everything it was weird to be living it. People were holding signs saying thank you and standing in the streets waving. Cars were stopped all over and were honking at us as we passed. The smoke from the fire would pass in front of the sun and it would suddenly get darker. The smell of smoke mixed with the crackling of the fire.

Here the fire is starting to come down the ridge at us.

This was as far as the fire would get. Due to the lack of wind, a down hill grade (it's harder for a fire to burn down a hill than up a hill), and some expert water drops by some helicopter crews our job was easy.

After the fire stopped we (our strike team got added to another) advanced hose up the fire line. This is the same ridge that was in the last photo.

Here is the view of the other side of the ridge.

Random firefighter.

Eric taking a breather.

Alright, we stopped it. Now what?

I like this shot. There were a lot of things smoldering which produced a smokey haze.

You can see the hose along the fire line on the left. Here we are starting to mop up.

Eric keeping hydrated.

Mopping up on a fire like this means using one inch hoses to soak everything within 100 feet of the edge of the fire. Those engines that have foam use that. In the background of this photo you can see the dirt road that was used as a fire line on the North end of the fire.

CalFire engines 3586 and 3560 are in the middle of this shot. Their crews laid hose from their engines all the way to where this shot was taken.

The fire ended up burning about 350 acres. We lost only one structure but no homes or businesses. This was considered to be a medium size fire. It's also the first real brush fire of the season. About 2200 we got to go back to the engine and grab some food and drinks. We had MRE's that we brought with us. I had beef stew. It was alright. At about midnight we were finally released from the fire. The red cross had set up at the command post and was giving out sandwiches, water, and Gatorade. It was appreciated. By the time that we got back to the station, got the engine back into service, showered, and got to bed it was almost 0200. The fire made for a long day.

1 comment:

Reena said...

cool pics!

you RULE! (you actually kinda do though)

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