Most local firefighters back from battling deadly California wildfires | August 22, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - August 22, 2018

Most local firefighters back from battling deadly California wildfires

by Barbara Wood

Local firefighters from the Woodside and Menlo Park fire protection districts have returned from battling some of the deadly wildfires that have consumed California this summer.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, a four-man crew from the Woodside Fire Protection District, who had relieved an earlier five-man crew from a two-week shift on the fire line, returned home from fighting the Carr Fire near Redding.

Three firefighters, two from Cal Fire and one from the Redding Fire Department, have died in that fire, along with a Pacific Gas & Electric linesman and four residents of the area.

Two other Woodside firefighters were still helping to fight the Mendocino Complex Fire in Mendocino and Lake counties. A firefighter from Utah has died in that blaze.

A crew from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which also replaced an earlier crew, also returned home from the Carr Fire on Tuesday night. Two specially trained and state-certified fire line paramedics who were working alongside ground crews fighting the fires remained at the Carr Fire, with another working on the Mendocino Complex Fire.

The firefighters from the two local agencies were part of a San Mateo County strike team. The county has three such teams, representing every fire agency in the county, ready to support efforts to extinguish large wild fires. Each team has five fire engines, a command vehicle and 22 personnel, Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

Woodside fire district Chief Dan Ghiorso said regular fire crews were "getting a handle" on the Carr blaze, which Cal Fire said was 67 percent contained by Wednesday morning, Aug. 15.

Schapelhouman said the strike teams' fire engines, normally used on pavement, are the "work horses" of the wildfire battles.

He said that "it isn't lost on the firefighters that fire season never seems to end anymore in California."

The firefighters who have worked on the the two fires are:

•From Menlo fire: (first two weeks) Capt. John Wurdinger, engineer/paramedic Anthony Morales, engineer Eric Mijangos, firefighter Anthony Ramirez; (Aug. 9-14) Deputy Chief Don Long, Capt. Ken Babcock, and engineer/paramedics Dan Giraudo, Scott Basset and Scott Johnson; (still deployed) fire line paramedics Joe Foster, Eric Bunzel and Alex Perlstein.

•From Woodside fire: (first two weeks) Battalion Chief Emil Picchi, Capt. Bob Bender, Capt. Keenan Hird, firefighter/paramedics Brandon Lima and Chris O'Leary; (Aug. 9-14) Capt. Scott McKenzie, firefighter/paramedics Javier Valdez and Josh Muela, and firefighter Jim Laughlin; (still on Mendocino Complex Fire) fire line medic Bob Erickson and firefighter Jared Abbott.


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