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Los Angeles County, California, 2010. It is early June and the beginning of the wildfire season for the CAL Fire Department. In California, wildfires will burn for days on end, and sometimes even a month before they can be controlled. It will turn out to be a busy year, just like in previous years. The California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) is the main department that handles wildfires. CAL FIRE covers over 31 million acres of California’s wild lands. They cover 36 of the 58 counties in California as well. They respond to an average of more than 5,600 wild fire calls a year. Besides wildland fires, they respond to over 350,000 other calls a year. These calls would include; medical emergencies, car accidents, car fires, structure fires, fire alarms, and hazardous materials spills.
Rookie firefighter Kevin Desoto is a graduate of the California Department of Forestry Fire Academy. He has been out of the Academy only a couple of days. He is beginning his career in the busiest CAL FIRE station around. His station is number 32.
“Hi my name is Kevin Desoto; is the captain around?”
“Yeah, go down the hall, and it’s the second door on the left,” said firefighter John Melrose.
“Thanks,” says Kevin.
“You must be the new rookie?” Captain Neil Arroyo asks.
“Yes sir, I am,” replies Kevin.
“Welcome to Station 32. Let’s go get you a locker and show you around the station,” says Captain Arroyo.
Kevin says, “Alright.”
“This is the first truck out to our wildfires. It is a Model 24 engine. It has a Navistar chassis made by Pierce Manufacturing. Its booster tank holds 500 gallons of water. This truck will hold 4 crew members. Our second truck in this station is brand new as of two weeks ago. It is a Model 34; this chassis is also a Navistar and made by Pierce Manufacturing. Its booster tank also holds 500 gallons of water and seats 5 crew members. This will be the truck you respond in to urban interface fires.” Explains Captain Neil.
“How many acres does the fire have to be in order for us to be called to assist other departments?” asks Kevin.
“We could get called out for a simple ditch fire depending on how close the fire is to our location. Most of the time, we are the first to be on scene of a fire,” explains Neil.
“DING DING DING…Engine 1736 and Engine 1764. Respond on a 3rd alarm fire, Summit Road and Peak Trail in Santa Clara County for a forest fire, estimated 50 acres burned at this time,” reports Santa Clara County Dispatch.
“Lets go, we got ourselves a good one,” Captain Arroyo yells.
Both Engines 1763 and 1764, roll out of the station with the lights and siren wailing. Kevin hustles to put his gear on in the truck.
“We’re 15 miles out yet, you can settle down a little bit rookie,” says firefighter John Melrose.
The driver of Engine 1764 says, “Look over there. You can see the big billowing clouds of smoke.”
“Brush 1742 to Dozer 12, make a fire line and head off that fire. If it jumps that trail, it’s going to get into those rows of pine trees,” says the firefighter in Brush 1742
“Dozer 12 copy, we are heading that way now.”
“10-4 dozer 12 we copy,” Brush 1742 replies.
“Engine 1763 and 1764 on scene,” Captain Arroyo reports to Dispatch.
“Battalion 1573 to 1764, respond to the Red Canyon, we have some spot fires down there.”
“Engine 1764, 10-4.”
“Let’s go guys, we have some spot fires down in the canyon that we can’t get to with our truck. Grab some shovels and everyone grab an Indian Can,” shouts Captain Arroyo.
An Indian Can is a Rubber backpack that you fill with water and has a handle with a hose going from the back pack to the pump handle. When you pump the handle water comes out the end.
“Kevin, get that little tree over there,” demands Captain Arroyo.
“Ok Capt’,” replies Kevin.
“Hey Capt’, do you want me to cut this tree down?” John Shouts.
“Yeah, go ahead,” answered Neil.
The fire is starting to surround the crew down in the canyon. The crew of Engine 1764 will have to deploy their fire shelters soon.
“Guys start digging a hole for yourself to sit in, and then deploy you fire shelters. Hurry up,” Captain Arroyo hollered. “Engine 1764 to Battalion 1573, we need a water drop fast. The fire is surrounding us and we are now deploying our fire shelters,” demanded Neil.
“Battalion 1573 copy,” replies the Battalion Chief. “Battalion 1573 to Engine 1882 and 1659, get down to Engine 1764’s location and start putting water on the fire. Copter 4, Engine 1764 is in the Red Canyon requesting a water drop,” Battalion 1573 declared.
Copter 4 flies over the Red Canyon and drops water on top of the crew to knock the fire down. Engine 1764 can now get out of the canyon and back up to the top.
“Engine 1764 to Copter 4, thanks for the water drop,” said Captain Arroyo.
“Battalion 1573 to Engine 1764, come and get checked out here in rehab,” Battalion 1573 requested.
“Battalion 1573 to Dispatch, I am requesting 3 water tankers, 4 engines, 2 dozers, and 3 brush trucks.”
“10-4 Battalion 1573,” replied Dispatch.
After engine 1764 was done in rehab they headed back out to mop up some spots that were still burning.
“Good work today guys. Kevin, especially you for your first fire,” Captain Arroyo congratulates his crew.
Both crews of Engines 1764 and 1763 return back to the station and wait for the next big blaze.