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Firefighters battle CalFire Wildfires


Wildfires decimate landscape, destroy homes

[/media-credit] With some of the largest and most destructive fires in California history, the state struggles to rebuild and recover after all the devastation.

CURRENT THOMAS FIRE IN VENTURA, Dec. 13: The Thomas Fire continues to scorch the land in between Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, Dec. 13. The fire burns through its 10th day and is now one of the largest and most destructive fires in California history. According to CalFire, the wildfire is now 25 percent contained and has destroyed over 230 thousand acres and demolished over 900 structures including 700 homes.

With some of the largest and most destructive fires in California history, the state struggles to rebuild and recover after all the devastation. Thousands of firefighters risk their lives every day to extinguish fires and help those in need.

Fresno’s Fire department, Station 7 Fire Captain Koby Johns continues his twelfth year of firefighting and reflects on his experiences.    

“As a firefighter in the city we typically focus on structure fires,” Johns said. “We have an agreement with the state and government that when there is a large wildfire and they need help beyond what they are able to do on their own they call for additional help and that’s when we show up. We as city firefighters have a different role on wildfires that a lot of the wild lands firefighters that you usually see.

“When people picture a wildfire they picture men in masks with shovels in the mountains but that is just one part of fighting the fire,” Johns continues. “When I go out to wildfires it’s either to protect people’s houses and cabins. I’m not necessarily out in the hills with a shovel I’m out in front of the houses with a fire engine. Our job as apart of the firefighting effort is to remove the fuel such as dead grass around people’s houses, naturally, we can be used in many different capacities.”

Some of the most recent and largest fires in California 2017:

Tubbs Fire: Also known as the “Northern California Firestorm” burned over 36 thousand acres of land in Sonoma throughout the month of October this year. The fire is now one hundred percent contained but incinerated over 5,600 buildings and killed 22 people.

Nuns Fire: Burning over 54 thousand acres of land destroying over 1,300 buildings and claiming the lives of two citizens. The Nuns Fire was one of the many fires in Sonoma County during the month of October.

Atlas Fire: Burning from Oct. 8-Nov. 17, the Atlas Fire in Napa County demolished over 700 structures and blazed through over 51 thousand acres of land also taking the lives of 6 people.

“The common feeling no matter what you’re doing on the fire grounds is a sort of alertness that is constantly intact. Your senses are overloaded because there are so many different things coming at you. You are very alive in the moment that’s true no matter if it’s a structure fire our you’re out in the hills.” — Koby Johns

Koby Johns is also used as a Public Information Officer (PIO) from time to time. Johns also explains what it is like to fight in the face of a fire.  

“I am also a PIO,” Johns said. The goal of that job is to shares information with the public and to inform them about what’s happening, what’s going to happen and what they can expect. Each fire comes with a different experience and it is really different depending on where you are, the mountains and city are completely different.

[/media-credit] Thousands of firefighters risk their lives every day in order to extinguish fires and save lives.

“Whether it be working really hard for long days or constantly on the lookout all fires have some things in common,” John’s continued. You are typically out there for 24 hours and often times you can’t see the fire but you know that things can change and a whole other scenario could happen so you have to constantly be on alert. You have to keep your head on a swivel and plan for the worst-case scenario. You trust your training and the people around you that you will be able to get out.”

Wildlands and city firefighter Fresno’s Fire department, Station 10 Mike Ressler has fought fires all over the country and shares his history on the job. Ressler recently watched the movie, “Only The Brave,” and shares his thoughts. He has worked for 13 years as a wildlands firefighter and 12 years in the city.

“I have fought fires in almost all the western states,” Ressler said. “Specifically in California, the largest fire I fought in was probably the Rim fire in Yosemite about four years ago. The Rim fire burned over 250 thousand acres and was ranked the third largest wildfire in California history. While I’m fighting a major wildfire, I’m thinking about the safety of the crew and myself.

“I recently watched the movie, “Only The Brave” and I really liked it,” Ressler continued. “I thought the movie was a little glamorized but I was very familiar with the story because I worked on hotshot crews for about 10 years. There was an accurate depiction of some of the crew life and what it’s like to be working on a hotshot crew.”

[/media-credit] Wildfires have been raging across the state this year.

Johns has fought fires in many parts of Northern California. His largest fire being, The Detwiler in Mariposa about two months ago.

“The largest fire that I have been in was probably the Detwiler Fire in Mariposa County,” Johns said. “It grew to over 81 thousand acres. Other large fires include those this past fall in the wine country in Mendocino. Those weren’t as large as the Detwiler but it was in neighborhoods so it burned down many homes devastating many people.”

This fire season, we thank firefighters for their service as they put their lives on the line every day to stop fires and to help those in need. They truly are heroes faithfully putting service and others before themselves.   

For more articles read, Teens discuss qualities of a hero and Fulton District undergoes renovation, restorations to historic area.

The author can be reached via email: Braden BellInstagram and Twitter.

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  • C

    Carston SaelzlerDec 13, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Thank you firefighters across California for the sacrafices you make to keep us safe. So incredible to hear the first-hand stories that were in this article. Shout out to Braden Bell- Way to Go!!!

  • K

    Kaylie ClemDec 13, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you to every one of the firefighters fighting the fires across the state. Great job writing this article Braden, and sharing the stories of these firefighters. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • B

    Bryce FosheeDec 13, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you very much firefighters! Great to hear the firefighter’s stories!