California firefighters brace for worst fires of the year

15 minutes. Already exhausted even before the end of July, battling the dozens of gigantic fires burning in California, firefighters have deployed every last of their resources to deal with the coming months, traditionally the worst of the year in terms of fires.

After a winter with hardly any rainfall and a start to summer with record temperatures, conditions are very high fire risk. Given this, dozens of small and isolated stations have been equipped throughout the state that are normally empty, but which allow reaching any incident much faster.

One of these stations is atop a completely dry, yellow mountain in the Foothills Nature Preserve in Palo Alto, south of San Francisco.

This facility, from which you have views of several kilometers around, works as an outpost. Last year it had no permanent staff, but this summer it has been hosting 3 firefighters day and night since June.

15 decisive minutes

The idea is that this team covers the area with an almost immediate response time, saving the 15 or 20 minutes it would take for emergency services to arrive from the nearest station. That is just long enough for a small fire to become too large to be extinguished instantly.

“We are here for the potential of what may happen. So it is imperative that there be personnel up here. We have 3 people: a captain, a firefighter and an engineer. This is what Jim LaFuente, the team captain, told ., who despite his calm and serene nature, admits a lot of concern about what is to come.

“Conditions for the fire in this area are getting worse. We are getting more wind and the area is already as dry as it would normally be in August and September“lamented the veteran of the fire department, who protects himself with dark glasses from the intense midday sun.

Throughout the state, fire departments have deployed every truck, plane, and cash throughout the country. This puts even more to the limit forces that in recent years had already begun to appear insufficient. The great fires have brought with them a demand for resources that has not been matched with more budget.

Budget constraints

“All California fire departments are in a tight budget situation,” said Santa Clara County Fire Captain Justin Stockman.

Lack of money forces tactical decisions to be made to better balance the budget with fire protection. This often translates into prioritizing some areas over others.

Although, according to Stockman, the best strategy is prevention, with the deployment of additional stations.

“The investment of having personnel deployed close to where fires can be declared far outweighs the potential costs of having to deal with the huge fires that occur in California each year,” the firefighter said.

Nowadays, there are more than 80 large fires active in the western United States (USA), especially in California. The fire baptized as “Dixie” burns in an area very close to the town of Paradise, which was already destroyed by flames in 2018; and that of “Tamarack” threatens the popular recreational destination of Lake Tahoe.

At the small outpost station at Foothills, they have been lucky so far and there has been no major fire in the area. However, Captain LaFuente is not trusting. Although in rotating shifts, the firefighters will remain stationed at the top of the mountain until at least October, and he does not rule out that it will even arrive until November.

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