IAFF Locals Respond to California Wildfires

September 19 • 2014
September 18, 2014 — CAL FIRE Local 2881 –  joined by members of several other IAFF locals – are working to extinguish nearly one dozen wildland fires across the state. The largest fire, the King Fire located on the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe, has burned more than 70,000 acres and threatens 2,000 homes. One fast-moving fire in the town of Weed overtook 100 structures, including four homes belonging to IAFF members.

“This is long, exhausting work that leaves no time to rest,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “I am very proud of the hard work our members have done to protect these communities.”

“It’s been a tough week for our members,” says Local 2881 President Mike Lopez. “In addition to the four fire fighters who lost their homes in the Weed fire, we had two members on the King fire who had to deploy fire shelters to keep from being overrun.”

The King fire ignited on September 13. Investigators are still working to determine the cause, but arson is suspected.

Fire fighters working this fire have been using bulldozers and hand tools to cut away underbrush and chop fire lines through vegetation. Those steps make it harder for the fire to spread, as does continuous drops of flame retardant and water from helicopters and large airplane tankers.

Even with all of their best efforts, very little of the King fire is contained and remains very dangerous.

Two IAFF members – a captain and a heavy equipment operator – were working with a crew to extinguish a spot fire when it started to grow too quickly. Before they could get out, the fire spread dangerously close and they were forced to deploy their fire shelters. While in the shelters, the captain radioed for assistance. A helicopter was sent to pick up the crew.

“We are all very thankful that everyone got out safely,” says Lopez.

He adds, “IAFF 10th District Vice President James Ferguson and Local 2881 leadership are working to provide relief for all members, including providing assistance through the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund.”

On a positive note, A Good Morning America film crew captured the moment when Local 2881 fire fighters found a woman’s wedding ring in the remains of her burned home.