A Humboldt County Strike Team Heads Out to Battle Flames Destroying Homes in Southern California
At 12:15 a.m., Thomas Norris, Assistant Fire Chief for Salmon Creek Volunteer Fire, received notice via his local government pager that a strike team was forming up and he was headed to the Southern California fires with the Miranda and Briceland VFD with whom he also works. But he hadn’t been asleep. Yesterday afternoon, he had heard the information that a strike team might be heading south. “I didn’t sleep at all,” he said. “We were told that we might be called out in the morning.” He spent time talking with other firefighters and preparing for family to take care of his home and animals while he was away.
He did attempt to sleep, but, he said, “I got to bed around 11:30…Shortly after the pager went off for Miranda and Briceland.” He had only a few hours to prepare. The strike team was leaving Garberville at 0400 (4 a.m.) and he needed to be at the staging scene by 0215. On the strike team were volunteers from Briceland Fire, Blue Lake Fire, Miranda Fire, Fortuna Fire, and paid crews from Arcata Fire District. (All the fire personnel and their departments–volunteer or otherwise–are paid for this type of assignment by a mutual aid agreement with Cal Fire and the Cal OES.) In addition, there was a strike team leader from Humboldt Bay Fire.
Over the last five days, Santa Ana winds have whipped wildfires across hundreds of miles of Southern California burning over 430 structures and sending 190,000 residents fleeing. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning–meaning that fire danger is extremely high–for the Los Angeles area through Saturday.The Humboldt County Strike Team is headed to the area to assist.
Diana Totten, Public Information officer for Briceland Fire, asks everyone to “keep these local firefighters in your hearts as they go to help save others from the massive destruction we see.”
Meanwhile, Norris and our strike team are heading into the fire zone. “Some of the guys are catching some sleep on the way there,” Norris said. But for him, “No, sleep yet,” he said.