“Protecting Lives, Property, and the Environment”

Aug. 1, 2018

At the time of writing, the Carr Fire burning in Shasta County, CA, has grown to more than 110,000 acres and is only 27% contained. So far it is the seventh most destructive wildfire in California state history. It started on July 23 and has destroyed more than 880 homes and damaged 169 others; 2,500 more structures are still being threatened by the flames. Here’s a brief video update from the Sacramento Bee on the fire, from Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman.

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Tragically, six lives have been lost including two firefighters who died on July 26. One was Jeremy Stoke, who was a member of the Redding Fire Department. The other was a bulldozer operator who had been contracted to help fight the fire.

Fire Departments from the local level all the way up to the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have their own fleet of dozers they use to fight fires. And I’m told these are extremely beefed up, reinforced pieces of equipment with heavy-duty blades, protective cages around the cab, and even ballistic glass. But a growing wildfire can quickly deplete a department’s resources and extra help is needed.

When more dozers and dozer operators are needed, pre-approved private contractors are called on to join the fight. They bring their operator skills with them as well as their heavy equipment. These independent contractors are paired with an equipment boss to go out and face the flames.

I understand the protocols and procedures that go into becoming one of those operators who gets a call whenever a wildfire blows up into an uncontrollable monster.

What I’m trying to understand are the contractors, who are not firefighters by trade, yet still put themselves on the front lines of a raging wildfire.

Is it for the money?

Is it care for the community?

Is it more of an adrenaline rush?

If you’ve been contracted before to be on the front lines of a wildfire, and if you’re willing to answer these questions as well as a few more, please let me know.

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