Lo­cal fire­fight­ers pitch in to put out wild­fires

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Front Page - By Kyla Cathey

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.”

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