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California Wildfires By: Cody Hall

News Story

ORANGE COUNTY, CA.

Orange County Fire Authority severely understaffed, local units are making critical moves to solve the problem due to uncontrollable wildfires, also a record high death rate for firefighters this year in southern California, leaving local communities in need.

OCFA helicopter dropping retardent on the new “Hen fire” in Coto De Caza to stop it from spreading into nearby homes at approximately 2pm on August 17.

Southern California firefighters are understaffed due to fires, which means everyday 9-1-1 calls are in jeopardy in local areas, there are not enough men in uniform to respond. This is a major issue right now because California has so many wildfires that are out of control during this fire season that’s supposed to last another month or two. Our civilian everyday emergencies are in danger. The people who are endanger are the people of our local communities. As of August 9th there were 2,100 California firefighters spread out fighting these fires, and 9 deaths, leaving a record low number of firefighters manning each station. The 9 deaths were all California Firefighters on the front line fighting the fires. Typically the average 9-1-1 response time in the OCFA is 7-12 minutes, in the past 3 weeks it has been 15 minutes, 20% higher than the average which is not okay. Captain of the OCFA Tom Reevis said “This fire season has been one of the worst we’ve had in years, and we are paying for it.” Tom a 25 year veteran has seen everything. “What our plan is for the understaffing is we are going to hire more men out of the fire academy this summer to replace our veteran fire fighters until they are back so the understaffing problem is solved, once the guys are back from the fires we will place the new recruits in nearby cities so this won’t be a problem in the future” Tom said.

Lake Elsinore, CA., last week. In Riverside county the Holy fire grows to 20,000 acres, and has burned 8 structures. August 5th.
Current California wildfire map August 2018

The current Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore and Corona is what sparked this understaffing talk. There has been many big fires up north but this recent fire that is now 65% contained and has burned over 25,000 acres is what took it over the top. OCFA Engineer Bob Roberts said, “This season has been one of the most grueling in my 27 year career, with the extreme heats, how fast the fires have spread in the wind, and I don’t think its stopping anytime soon, this is the driest I’ve seen southern California in years. “ Bob a 3rd generation firefighter has heard about all kinds of things and says this summer will be high up there in history for the amount of fires. “It has been stressful being up north fighting these fires for so long and hearing about all of the understaffing problems back home, I just hope they come up with a plan quick to set things straight so the people we care about never have to question if we will be there for them or not” Bob said. OCFA.com said that this is the highest amount of firefighters absent from their station in the past 15 years. The local communities have been missing their firefighters. Local teen Sage Casaga, son of a local firefighter said “It’s tough not having my dad around, I know he’s out there doing his job but he’s been gone weeks at a time and its hard on my family and I, I wish the OCFA would relieve the firefighters who have been gone so much with other fire fighters but it is what it is, I just want him to come home.” This fire season is affecting a lot more people than what meets the eye. Going to OCFA fire stations, they just didn’t have the same feel as they usually do, much more quiet, not much enthusiasm and not as many laughs as it usually does. That is a combination of this exhausting season and the passing of a firefighter this week fighting the Redding fire. This is now the 9th firefighter that has been killed this fire season, which is the highest number in decades according to the Orange County Register.

OCFA fire rigs responding to new 450 acre fire in Coto De Caza, setting up a Perimeter on the East side of Harrison Street as the fire roars from the west at 9am on August 17th.

Local Orange County citizen Paul Polacios said “It is terrible hearing about everything going on right now, my neighbor had a stroke last week and no one arrived for 20 minutes, that needs to be changed, but I know that is not the firefighters fault, they just need to come up with a solution quick.” Paul, a former Marine knows all about what makes up a team like a fire station. “When someone calls 9-1-1 we need to be confident someone will be there in no time to make sure everything is okay. I am forever thankful for the California firefighters keeping us safe, as I am a California citizen for 30 years” Paul said.

“The fire was intense especially through the night, the winds picked up and made it very difficult to maintain, we had to really attack it by plane as the terrain was too tough to get too” Firefighter Bob Roberts talking about the Holy Fire as it rages through the night. August 11, Lake Elsinore, CA.

As more and more firefighters are currently being hired to end the understaffing problem, there still are 21 current wildfires continuing to burn in our state of California, we pray that our firefighters stay safe and return home as quickly as possible.

https://www.newsweek.com/california-wildfires-mendocino-complex-carr-fire-holy-fire-wildfires-map-1074864

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/10/us/california-fires.html

https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/Mendocino-Complex-fires-claim-first-life-5-000-13154845.php

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