Heroes Wear Yellow: Firefighters Work Tirelessly as Wildfires Rage in California
If you were awake in San Francisco around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, you may have been able to see flames burning in the North Bay. As wind was whipping up the blaze, firefighters were heroically pushing ahead. Despite evening winds, the more than 5,000 fire crew personnel managed to double the Kincade Fire containment. As of Wednesday morning, the Sonoma County county inferno that forced evacuations from the wine country to Pacific Coast was 30 percent contained. Still, it has burned nearly 77,000 acres and isn’t expected to be completely under control until Nov. 7.
Containment can’t come fast enough, as several other fires are simultaneously scorching the Golden State. The Kincade Fire that started nearly one week ago today may be the largest at the moment, but it far from the only one. Just as the 4,615-acre Tick Fire in the Santa Clarita area was nearing full containment range, the Getty and Easy fires erupted entirely too close to highly populated urban areas, keeping Southern California in a state of constant alert and fear. The Santa Ana winds, reaching 70 mph gusts Tuesday night, have exacerbated an already harrowing situation.
The Getty Fire in Brentwood has destroyed 12 homes Monday after it erupted near the Getty Center along the 405. According to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the fire was caused by a eucalyptus branch falling onto power lines on North Sepulveda Boulevard. As of Wednesday morning, the blaze had burned through 745 acres and was 27 percent contained.
The Easy Fire in Simi Valley has already taken out about 1,300 acres since it started around 6 a.m. Wednesday morning near Easy Street and Madera Road. Nearly 7,000 homes and the Ronald Reegan Presidential are currently under threat and people in parts of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks are under mandatory evacuation orders.
And these are just the big fires people are paying most attention to. During the extreme wind that pummeled the Bay Area Sunday, fire crews managed to control blazes in Oakley, Vallejo, Crockett, Clayton, Lafayette, Brisbane and Martinez — that was just one day.
Evacuation centers are struggling to accommodate the thousands of people forced from their homes in both Northern and Southern California. Resources are spread thin and fire crews are exhausted, sleeping in tents near burn zones. Once one fire is under control, they’ll move onto the next as fire season has become more of a year-long war. The brave men and women fighting these fires in all capacities — with hoses, bulldozers, chainsaws, planes, helicopters, axes — are going extended periods of time without seeing their own families and sometimes while their own homes are under threat.
There are no greater heroes than these people that run into places that the rest of us run from.
The state of California has always dealt with fire seasons, some years worse than others depending on weather and drought conditions that precede them. But, largely, massive fire risks were historically relegated to forest areas and dry hillsides with low resident populations. That’s simply no longer the case. The “new normal” is intermittent power shutoffs and a need to keep a go bag near your front door, no matter where you live.
Fires simply burn more acreage now than they did before, increasing eight-fold in the past 50 years, and cross boundaries into more populated areas. Life will not get easier for California residents and the firefighters that keep us safe anytime soon. It just won’t. We need to face the new reality and do everything we can to not increase the risks.
And we need to give love and appreciation to the fire crews who are giving everything they have for us. LeBron James just sent firefighters a taco truck, and good on him for doing so, but they’re going to need a lot more tacos to get them through this year.
If you can do it, find a way to bring them water and food, and at the very least, be sure you thank a firefighter every time you see one.