Grand County fire crew heads to California to assist with wildfires
While a blanket of snow descends over Grand County, and residents prepare for a white winter, southern California is burning. Fueled by heavy winds from Santa Ana, and low levels of humidity, California fire departments are struggling to contain wildfires stretching from Los Angeles to San Diego County. But there are always those ready and willing to respond to the call of duty.
Engine Boss Joe Starika, Josh Anderson and Isaac Duran of the Grand Fire Protection District, along with Lieutenant Colin Steward of the Grand Lake Fire Protection District, left for California early Wednesday morning to help with the devastating wildfires.
The crew drove a Type 3 fire engine and arrived in Chino, California around midday on Thursday where they were grouped into a strike team with four other crews, including crews from Grand Junction, Conifer and Niwot.
“They said the air was so thick, not with smoke, but with dirt and stuff from the wind that you couldn’t see across the parking lot,” said Brad White, assistant chief for operations and training for Grand Fire, relaying information back from California.
The Grand County crew is currently assisting with the Liberty Fire near Murrieta, about an hour and a half southeast of Los Angeles. The Liberty Fire began on Dec. 7, and is currently burning at least 300 acres, according to the most recent update from the city of Murrieta. The fire has already destroyed several structures, though evacuations were lifted Friday morning.
The Grand County crew is currently working to contain the fire, digging lines, putting down wet line and working with a helicopter to find hot spots in the area. The fire is currently estimated at 90 percent contained
“The vibe around the firehouse is the guys are excited that somebody is getting out there and helping out,” White said. “There are a fair number of guys here that wish they had a spot on that truck.”
The Grand Fire Protection District participates in an interagency dispatch center based in Craig, allowing fire departments from all over the country to request resources and assistance on major fires. Through the program responding firefighters are committed to at most two weeks at a fire, but can cut their visit short if things are going well.
White anticipates the crew will likely be gone for at least ten days.
“They’ll be putting in 14 or 16 hour days until they get released,” said White. “So it’s work when those guys are out there. Sometimes they’re out in the staging area for a couple days then get sent home. Other times they get to work their butts off for a couple weeks. That’s what this one looks like its shaping up to be.”
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