Dixon firefighters have spent much of this month helping extinguish fires burning throughout California.
As of Sunday, the CAL FIRE website reports there are 13 fires burning more than 70,000 acres that are not 100% contained, most located in Northern California.
Since Aug. 12, Dixon fire has staffed engine crews on strike teams at the Wye Fire in Napa/Lake County, Mill Fire in Chico, and now, hoping to be demobilized soon, the Ponderosa Fire near Manton, close to Red Bluff.
Imagine going to work in the morning, expecting to work for 2 days and not coming home for 14 days, working in extreme, unknown conditions and terrain. This is what firefighters throughout the state are going through.
Dixon is a part of the master mutual aid system in California, agreeing to provide resources to respond to large-scale incidents in California.
On Aug. 12, Dixon fire was called to respond to the Wye fire in Napa, which had burned 5,000 acres in the first 12 hours. After 4 days being assigned to hike very steep hills, working the fires edge, they were reassigned to the Mill fire near Chico, working there for 5 days before, once again, being reassigned to the Ponderosa Fire, which had reached 7,000 acres in the first 12 hours, and continues to burn. Currently 27,676 acres have burned, 64 residences and 20 outbuildings have been destroyed, and now 80% contained.
Dixon Fire Captain and Strike Team Leader, Ron Karlan emailed me from his phone, on his 12th day, to give readers insight on the "adventure" they are experiencing, and some photos he and his crew have snapped along the way. He reports that each reassignment was given at 4 a.m., giving them time to travel to the next location and be working again by sunrise.
Upon arrival at the Ponderosa fire, 300 residences were threatened because the fire had jumped the line that had previously contained it. "Due to lack of resources, we were the only engine crew assigned to the Harding fire area," Karlan reports, "our strike team was successful in holding the fire and protecting the structures" in the areas they were protecting.
Per the CAL FIRE website, "Under what is known as the California Master Mutual Aid Agreement, CAL FIRE assists other fire departments within the State when Department resources are available, regardless of the type of disaster. In turn, CAL FIRE can access the local government fire departments through the same agreement for assistance in wildland fire suppression."
As part of the mutual aid agreements, Dixon Fire utilizes a Type 3 engine, which is built for wildland firefighting, especially steep terrain. It has been two years since Dixon Fire has had to send strike teams, as California was lucky to avoid large wildfires, however Karlan warns, "The wildland season is just beginning and the fuels are already at critical levels that should not be reached until late September."
Dixon Fire employs 15 fire personnel, and while 1/3 of of them are on strike teams, the rest are left to cover station shifts 24-7. "
There are many challenges to these assignments," said Karlan, "Personnel are deployed at a moment's notice without saying goodbye to family members. Personnel are committed to stay at the incident and don't know when they will be released."