Fighting Flames, Saving Houses, Feeding Pigs…It’s All in the Job Description of a Firefighter

A large wild pig with tusks snuffles the ground near fire trucks on the Ranch Fire.

A large wild pig with tusks snuffles the ground near fire trucks on the Mendocino Complex. [Photo by Diana Totten]

Last week, as Briceland firefighter, Diana Totten, led her crews in a battle to stop the flames of the Ranch Fire from pouring into Clover Valley above Upper Lake, a few wild animals fled past. On and off for three days and nights, Totten’s division fought in that section of the massive Mendocino Complex. One evening a group of six apparently wild pigs, one with deep ragged scratches, approached. 
Ash lay like snow on unburned a hills around the valley, when Totten's crew came one day.

Ash lay like snow on the hills around the valley.

As people sometimes have very little time to evacuate, it’s not uncommon to find pets and even wild animals in the areas we work,” Totten explained. “The wild pigs were disoriented and confused…These looked thirsty.”

When a plume of smoke collapses, then this can cause erratic winds that increase the fire activity.

Photo taken not long after a plume of smoke collapsed. After a collapse, erratic winds that increase the fire activity often arrive. [Photo by Diana Totten]

Totten, a division supervisor on the Mendocino Complex in Lake County whose job was managing resources such as engines, dozers, crews, water tenders, and aircraft on a portion of the fire hated to see them suffer especially the wounded one. “I took a water truck over and made a lake for him and his buddies,” she explained. “They drank for 15 minutes then laid in the water.”
Flames pushing into Clover Valley

Flames pushing into Clover Valley. [Photo by Diana Totten]

The firefighters gave the pigs some food, too. “We left lunch scraps,” Totten said.

They also saved homes in the valley that were threatened by the fire. “Our shifts are at least 24 hours on the line then other firefighters step in and take over where we leave off,” she explained.

Flames above home in Ranch FIre

Flames above a residence in Clover Valley. [Crop of a photo by Diana Totten]

Totten, who is home from the incident now, said that she has been thinking about all the animals affected by the massive wildfires burning across California. She explained she has seen many animals fleeing the flames–“fox, coyotes, skunks, deer, pigs, everything.”

She said, “[M]edia coverage has been so much on how these fires have affected people,” she said. “[But, I] realized how many thousands of animals have lost their lives and how they are displaced. I thought about how many miles they’ve traveled—some with foaming mouths.”

She paused and added, “Wrap your mind around almost 350,000 acres of fire and the thousands of critters who lost everything… .”



  • My husband and I were just talking about this yesterday. Bless you Diana and Kym for shedding light on this. Thank you Diana and all the fire fighters that take the time to think of these poor animals. I hope they find their way to new homes with plenty of water and caring neighbors like yourselves.

  • Were proud of you Briceland, And Diana, Thanks!

  • So nice of you to help out not just people but animals firefighters are truly angels are there any agencies that can help wild animals I hope that they are the step in

  • It is not surprising that Diana Totten, one of Southern Humboldt’s most respected people, would see the loss and suffering that the critters also go through. It is truly heartrending, knowing that animals don’t understand “evacuation orders”, but their survival instinct is phenomenal. More critters than one would think make it out of wildfires, but the loss is still incredible.

    I don’t think anyone can really wrap their mind around 350,000 acres of fire. The Mendocino/Lake county grease brush is notorious for almost instantaneous flash-overs, almost like an explosion. The flames of of the grease brush is black, like a fuel oil fire. The fires in that area are one of the most dangerous in the world to control. The reason that more lives have not been lost is due to the fact that we have such knowledgeable people as Diana on the scene.

    Fire has been with the the Earth since the beginning of time, and critters have been here for eons, but the plague of humans are a very recent occurence, and a serious problem for the environment The biomass (trees and brush) of the north coast is the greatest that it has ever been, even with all the timber harvesting for lumber. Humans are the “real Problem” as Sinead O’Conner might say. We mess with everything to whatever means that we think might benefit us, or make us more comfortable and happy, but I’m not getting of the Earth anytime very soon… How about you?

    There is no way to control human nature. Some of us might see and understand the problem and how to solve it, but it is impossible to control humankind as a whole. There is no way that a young woman can be convinced not to make babies, and there is no way to convince a young man not to help her. We are doomed by our own zeal to go forth multiply and prosper. Amen, so be it.

    • Nothing to be done to dissuade pregnancy? I think government should offer a fee, say $50,000 (and pay for the procedure) to any woman willing to have a tubal ligation. It would be a flat out bargain at 4 times that.

      • The debt based fractional reserve money system would collapse, must have babies, must flood immigrants.

      • How about free vasectomies?

        • Sure, but not as effective at reducing unwanted children. While a man is a necessary part of the equation, the woman is the limiting factor. What would reduce unwanted pregnancy more in a population of 1000 men and 2 women, 900 vasectomies or two tubal ligations?

        • Sure, but not as effective at reducing unwanted children. While a man is a necessary part of the equation, the woman is the limiting factor. What would reduce unwanted pregnancy more in a population of 100,000 men and 2 women, 99,000 vasectomies or two tubal ligations?

          • Cut dem sperm tubes

            Yes but the procedure is much easier for men and has less side effects than women (like immediate onset menopause for women). Also no hospital stay for men nor do they need to be “put under” for the procedure.
            To me anyone saying sterilize women instead of vasectomies must work for big western med in some capacity, way more money to be made fixing women.
            And hey if they can dessimate a population of fruit flies destroying crops by introducing all sterile males for breeding, i think we can do it too.

        • Vasectomies are already free, at planned parenthood.


      Be careful what you ask for. China, that most racially intolerant country, has a problem in that women, sizably reduced in numbers by the aborting or female babies , has a problem with remaining women not wanting to have enough children. I wonder if that contributed to China deciding to expand its phyical territory by laying claim to all of the seas to its east .

      • The whole western world stopped having enough babies to replace its numbers for like 30-40 years. America would not be a growing population , for quite some time now, without immigration …and Catholics. This applies to nearly all western countries.

  • This fire is a joke them so called fire fighters could not even put out a dam camp fire let alone a forests fire its not like thars not no dam warter they only have one of the largest natural lakes in calf. right thar not like they dont have as many helicopters as they dont need not counting the air craft to drop stuff on it and to top it off not like thar is a shortage of people to get this dam thing put out these dam guys are just milking this dam thing out to make as much money as they can i mean i hate to see this dam country go to war it would be even a bigget joke if they would of just let the dam thing burn the rains would of all ready been here to put it out the fire would of created its own weather to put it out

    • I agree, these fires should have been put out when they started. All of the lives and homes that have been lost should never have happened. I hope these people in all of these counties get good attorneys to sue the government.

      • Shame on both of you! R-dog and Mariahgirl! You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but as someone with the fire practically in our back yard, we appreciate all the work and the heroism of the women and men fighting this fire AND we appreciate all the equipment and resources being put into it. Maybe they’ve made mistakes, although I don’t have the expertise to judge, as you apparently do — but I do know they’re working tirelessly and courageously in the most horrible conditions to save our lives and property. Read the article about Diana Totten and the Humboldt Hotshots. And then just sit back and enjoy that feeling of superiority that you know better than anyone else. No matter what you say and no matter how much you think you know, they’ll bust their butts to save you and your property when the time comes.

    • Wow are you trumps fact checker or what?
      Nothing you say has any truth to it, take it all turn it around and there the truth lies. Fires never create weather to put themselves out, your ignorance is quite shocking! Why dont we setcha loose out there with whatever fire fighting tools you believe in and see what happens?

  • My God. I wonder about you people that have nothing better to do than criticize everything good.

    • Yes Ma’am, an un-checked platform for an insane amount of hate speech & bigotry. Differing thoutful opinions can be respectful but this is not constructive. More funding to the education system and mental health are apparently needed.

  • Thank you! And be patient with displaced animals. Young bears especially, they are forced out of their territory into other bears and are very stressed looking for any food source.

  • 2 ways you can look at it, 1 our forests throughout the state are creating a potential catastrophe if it was to ignite as a whole. Secondly I heard somewhere not sure if it is true, that cdf gets paid from the state based by the acreage burned. So if you look at this from the taxpayer point of view? I believe the answer to be a lose lose situation! I just hope it eliminates that beetle infestation that is killing our forests today.

    • You are very incorrect about cdf getting paid by acres burned. Has nothing to do with it. Check you facts before spreading mis information. Also, the forests are very unhealthy and overcrowded which leads to catastrophic fires. The more fuel avail, given the right conditions, leads to rapid fire growth. If the forests were managed correctly this would not be so devastating. Think about it, a fire in grass is much easier to extinguish than a fire in brush and timber. If the understory of the forest was burned out cleared there wouldn’t be the fuel avail to build such intense heat and hamper suppression efforts. All of the folks making off the wall comments have no idea about Firefighting, state of the fuels, or were tax money really goes. Please leave the conspiracy theories at the door.

  • Thank you Diane for all that you do

  • Viviana Morrison 4 days ago
    Whenever something as basic as fire appears to violate laws of Physics, its a good reason to wonder what’s being perpetrated against us. The local Weatherman seems to either be starting his own vocabulary about this, or there already is one! Hmmm “Fire Weather Watch” Pfft! Carr Fire Anomalies – Trees Uprooted. Shredded, Crazy How It Picked Houses 16:04 August 6, 2018

    It is not just over-growth, but aerosol geoengineering that exacerbates the fires. Nano metals in the aerosols found in soil, plants, trees, water, etc., are desiccants, and fire accelerants.

    The latest development of laser technology.

    Eyewitness report from a reliable source. Interview w/Fire Chief

    Different, but shows actual footage.

  • Thank you Diana and all the crews for helping to save the lives of domestic and wild animals plus people and more.

    Firefighters & police fed a little girl’s fish… wrote her a note …
    Thank you first responders!!

  • An enormous thank you to Diana and all the other firefighters. Not too many of us can even imagine what a 24 hour shift looks like in those kind of conditions, or any other kind of condition for that matter. You’re one of the most courageous and inspirational people I have ever had the honor of knowing. To think that your mission to quell this terribly destructive fire reaches not only to the people, their homes and the land but also to the animals both domesticated and wild is above and beyond incredible. The word ‘thanks’ doesn’t even come close to expressing my gratitude.

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