10 local firefighters responding to Calif. wildfires return home


MARLBOROUGH, Conn. (WTNH/AP) — Firefighters who went to California to help control its wildfires returned home Saturday.

10 firefighters from Connecticut and Massachusetts hit the road on Sept. 4 to help the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northwest California, as well as the Red Salmon Complex in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Four full-time employees of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) were among the crew, along with one full-time employee from Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, and five private individuals hired temporarily by the federal government.

Due to coronavirus concerns, they had to drive to and from California instead of flying. The long drive there was only the beginning of their battle.

“Some of the men and women on our crew have a lot of experience, have been out on a lot of fires, and this fire, in particular, was some of the most extreme terrains many of them have ever worked in,” Paul Rego said.

They said they could see the effects of the wildfires even before reaching California. Once the caravan reached Utah, they saw smoke completely covering the sky.

“We did not see the sun the entire time we were out there, completely smoke obscured,” Rich Scalora said. “We were in smoke all day, every day. Unfortunately, that’s just California at this time of year.”

They mainly fought the fires was with, in fact, fire. They used drip torches to control the direction and size of the fire and maneuver it away from surrounding communities.

The crews worked 12 hour days, starting at 2 p.m. and ending around 2 a.m.

The Red Salmon Complex saw 110,000 acres damaged from the fires as of Tuesday morning, but the crew says that it is one of the smaller fires in California this season.

The crew is thankful for the experience and will use the skills learned in California to help control any future wildfires they come across, whether it will be back at the Golden State or right here in Connecticut.

This is the second group of people that DEEP sent to California to provide aid during the wildfires; the first group responded to the Modoc National Forest this past July.

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