Sacramento area firefighters returned home this week after spending two weeks battling the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history.
Being one of the nearest fire departments when the Camp Fire started in Butte County, engines were immediately dispatched Nov. 8 as the fire raced through Paradise, said Capt. Keith Wade, spokesman for the Sacramento Fire Department.
“Two engines went out the door right away,” he said. “They went to Butte County lights on because of the immediate need.”
Firefighters from a station in north Sacramento were some of the first to respond, Wade said. Within hours, they were joined by firefighters from other local agencies including Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, and Consumnes, Folsom and West Sacramento fire departments.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The volume of evacuees streaming out of the mountain town of Paradise, often times using both lanes to flee, proved a challenge when trying to get to the blaze. The situation was so desperate for some that they asked firefighters for a ride away from the flames.
It took firefighters three hours to make the journey and they immediately set to work defending homes and business.
“It was difficult in the circumstances because that was a fire like no other,” Wade said. “I think it was pretty intense scenario with the heat and smoke conditions. Breathing in that kind of environment is difficult and they’re moving from home to home thinking . . . what can we save.”
Though water supply became an issue, Sacramento firefighters continued structure protection for at least two days, and then continued their work putting out hot spots.
“They get beat up,” Wade said. “Fourteen days is a long time to be doing that kind of activity.”
After a two-week deployment, many firefighters returned home just in time for Thanksgiving.