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California wildfires: Firefighters came from as far as Idaho

May 04, 2013|By Louis Sahagun

After more than two days of combating a massive wildfire in Ventura County, hundreds of exhausted firefighters from around California and neighboring states were trying to steal a few minutes' sleep Saturday morning in a makeshift city that sprouted along a rural road in Camarillo.

The mini-city is called Springs Fire Incident Command Post and it is equipped to provide three meals a day – along with medical supplies, shower facilities and tents to catnap in -- to the roughly 2,000 firefighters deployed to Camarillo over the last three days. Firefighters came from across California as well as Oregon, Arizona and Idaho.

Many of them drove here in family vehicles. Others caravaned in fire engines to work fire lines on 24-hour shifts. Despite slackening winds, cooler temperatures and forecasts of possible rain on Sunday, these ground crews and fire commanders had their hands full – and there was no end in sight.

By Saturday morning, the Springs fire had scorched about 30,000 acres and was 30% contained in what authorities fear could be one of the worst fire seasons in decades statewide because of a lack of winter and spring rains.

Since the beginning of the year, Cal Fire has responded to over 600 wildfires, more than 200 over the average for this time of year. Due to the low rainfall levels across the state, 2013 is likely to go down as one of the driest ever, officials said.

Fresno Fire Department Battalion Chief Charles Tobias and his family knew what to expect when they were awakened by a telephone call at 1 a.m. on Friday.

“My wife asked, ‘You going to the big fire in Southern California?’” Tobias recalled, as he and dozens of colleagues grabbed a light breakfast at sunrise. “I said yes. She said, ‘When are you coming home?’ I told her I had no idea – and I still don’t.”


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