Local firefighters pitch in to put out wildfires
On Thursday, firefighters from Lodi, Woodbridge and beyond were spread out around Northern California, helping to fight wildfires in the North Bay and Yuba County.
“They call in every day,” Lodi’s Interim Fire Chief Gene Stoddart said.
But they don’t have much time to chat. They’re working 24-hour shifts laying hose, creating fire breaks, scouting for new blazes and fighting existing ones.
“Our (Office of Emergency Services) engine with four personnel are currently assigned to the Lobo Fire,” Stoddart said.
Another captain has headed out to the LNU Central Complex — one of the several fires burning in the North Bay — to serve as an EMT, he said.
Lodi’s firefighters are among 73 in San Joaquin County to head to wildfires around the state this week, said Waterloo-Morada Fire Chief Steve Henry.
“This is not only the ones on the engines, but we’re sending up managers and division supervisors,” he said.
The county has also loaned out 16 fire engines and a water tender.
“We have a significant deployment out of San Joaquin County,” Henry said.
Henry is one of three operational leaders and coordinators in the county. They rotate duties each week, and this is his week.
Part of his job is seeing how many people and what equipment each fire department in the county can spare, and then sending them where they’re most needed. Firefighters and engines from the county are currently at the Central LNU, Mendocino-Lake and Wind complex fires, and a paramedic has responded to a blaze in the Sequoia National Forest. A few are at the Lobo Fire in Nevada County, too.
“Anything that leaves the county on an assignment like that, it comes through me and the dispatch center,” Henry said.
While the firefighters don’t have a lot of time for small talk, those coming off a shift at noon Thursday — one they started at 6 a.m. Wednesday — described a nightmarish scene.
“There’s fire pretty much anywhere they look,” Henry said.
Up at the Wind Complex north of Marysville, Battalion Chief Kris Hubbard of Cosumnes Fire said things were bad.
“It’s a devastating fire. Numerous homes have been destroyed, people have been displaced,” he said.
He and his strike team were at the Cascade Fire near La Porte late on Thursday morning, scouting for breakthrough blazes.
Sacramento County had sent out several crews, Hubbard said. Cosumnes deployed both of its OES engines — provided by the state, with the stipulation that they would go out to fight wildfires as needed — and two “grass rig” engines — pickup-type trucks with pumps, hoses and tanks.
“We have several overhead positions out also,” he said.
Other local departments were helping as well. Woodbridge Fire sent five firefighters, including a strike team leader, and Mokelumne Fire loaned out an engine.
Both Henry and Hubbard made it clear that none of the departments loaning staff or equipment were putting their hometowns in danger.
“We won’t draw ourselves down to the point where we can’t cover our home,” Hubbard said.
Some firefighters are working overtime, but no one wants to put Lodi, Galt or other local towns at risk.
There’s a system set up throughout the state that allows fire departments to offer aid when needed, but they keep enough of their staff home to cover any emergencies, Henry said.
“And that’s every agency, not just us,” he said. “They know what they can give.”