By Douglas W. Motley
Beginning in early August, the San Bernardino County Fire Department started dispatching firefighters, including mountain area crews and strike teams, to battle wildfires throughout California. According to County Fire Public Information Officer Tracey Martinez, County Fire has sent at least 10 strike teams, consisting of 21 firefighters and five engines assigned to each team, to various fires throughout the state.
Capt. Don Whitesell from Lake Arrowhead Fire Station 91 told The Alpine Mountaineer on Oct. 13 that local firefighters had been deployed to the Apple Fire, which flared up on Aug. 2 near Oak Glen; and the El Dorado Fire, which ignited near Yucaipa on Sept. 5 and torched over 22,000 acres near Oak Glen, Forest Falls, Angeles Oaks and the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area.
Martinez said strike teams were also sent to battle the Bobcat Fire, which started on Sept. 6 and charred over 115,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest, burning eastward from Azusa towards Wrightwood and northeastward to Pinyon Hills. “Most strike teams are on 14- to 21-day deployments. We still have two strike teams out. We also have hand crews and dozers working the fires as well.”
When asked whether any county firefighters had been injured while fighting out-of-the-area fires, Martinez said, “No San Bernardino County fighters have been seriously injured, though we have had a few minor injuries.”
“So far this season, we’ve spent 28 days on out-of-the-area fires. Currently, we have crews working the August Complex and Zogg Fires in Northern California,” Whitesell said, adding, “That doesn’t mean our local stations have been abandoned; we do backfill with local firefighters, who have knowledge of the local area.”
Martinez added, “We move up engines and bring in additional resources to backfill the units while they are assigned to another incident. We use reserve engines and equipment where needed and bring in additional staffing.”
Noting that the height of fire season in San Bernardino County is usually in October, when Santa Ana winds blow the strongest, Martinez said, “Our county is not out of the woods yet. Please stay vigilant and continue to create defensible space around your home.”
Tips on how to prepare for a wildfire can be found by logging onto www.sbcfire.org.