By | Michelle N. Meyers
A thick, grey haze blankets the state of California. People everywhere are being evacuated from their homes, while thousands of wildfires burn across hundreds of thousands of acres of land. Firefighters and emergency personnel from different towns, cities, states, and even countries have been fighting the California blazes for months.
(Photo: Ian T.)
This year to date, 6,744 fires that have burned a total of 731,260 acres according to Cal Fire. Currently, there are 35 wildfires burning statewide according to the Incident Information System, InciWeb. In order to battle the blazes, there have also been some 21,000 firefighters assigned to fires in 10 Western States. (NIFC)
“We have a lot of dedicated men and women out there working to put this thing out,” says Shawn Compton, Orleans Complex Information Officer and firefighter since 1993
(Photo: Ian T.)
In addition, the NIFC states that the National Preparedness Level for wildfires has been elevated to National Preparedness Level 5 as of August 10, 2017, the highest level since august of 2013. Preparedness Levels are established by The National Multi-Agency Coordination Group (NMAC) throughout the year to ensure that firefighting resources are prepared to respond when incidents arise. According to the National Park Service, Preparedness Level 5 is a situation in which several geographic areas that are experiencing major incidents that have the potential to exhaust all resources.
With so many fires going on this season at such high intensities, firefighters have been strapped for resources.
“It doesn’t help right now with all the hurricanes going on either,” says Compton. “When you have no more resources nationwide, it’s really hard to find them.” The scarcity of resources makes it much harder to respond to these fires. With so much going on at one time, there are only so many resources to go around and Compton says it ultimately comes down to “what fire is more important to the other.”
While this season proves to be a difficult one to manage, Curtis Coots, The Orleans Complex Incident Commander says that, “When it comes down to it, life and property, that’s always the focus.”
But what’s going to stop the blazes? While manpower alone can redirect and slow down the progression of fires, it isn’t manpower that’s going to stop these high intensity fires.
“You can put 1000 firefighters in front of a crown fire, its not going to stop it,” says Compton. “A season ending event, that’s what’s going to put the fire out.”
(Photo: Ian T.)
California Fire Map as of Sept. 13, 2017
Spotlight On The La Tuna Fire
Some say the La Tuna Fire may be the largest fire in Los Angeles’s history. So far, it has scorched some 7,194 acres of land, obliterated 4 homes, and prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. Yet, as of now, The La Tuna Fire is 100 percent contained.
On Sept. 4, 2017, while fighting the perimeter of the La Tuna Fire, Torrance Firefighters came across the Theodore Payne Foundation For Wildflowers and Native Plants in Sun Valley. When they saw it, they fell in love with its beauty and its mission, and they felt that they couldn’t let the place go up in smoke.
After fighting fire around the parameters of the foundation, the firefighters slept on their picnic tables over the night. The next morning, Foundation Director of Horticulture Tim Becker and Foundation Executive Director Kitty Connolly were relieved to find a large fire engine in their parking lot with four firefighters standing by.
“We were really happy that they were here,” says Connolly.
After being evacuated several days earlier, they were on pins and needles that all would be lost in the fire, and it nearly was.
“They stopped the fire right at the edge of our property,” says Connolly, “their skill is incredible.”
All surrounding areas of the foundation have been burned.
“It’s just heartbreaking to come down the canyon,” says Connolly, “it’s just black.”