Twenty-seven firefighters from the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District left the area Oct. 22-23 and drove down to Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties to fight the raging firestorms. They joined 15,000 other firefighters, said Mike Brown, district battalion chief.
Eight firefighters, three managers and two fire engines from the district continue to be stationed in Southern California, Brown said Wednesday. The district will get its entire personnel back over the next few days. There were no injuries.
"It was tough down there," Brown said. "It was relatively chaotic …. You go to a staging area and get assigned to a fire to work. You do the best you can and it could take several hours and more resources are needed."
"It's the worst fire that a fireman can go down to," he added. "It's as bad as it gets."
"There's fire all around you," he said. "All you can do is your best to protect the structure until the weather changes."
Gov. Schwarzenegger and President Bush declared the recent firestorms in Southern California as a state of emergency, according to reports. The fires forced more than 900,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Two fire engines and a strike team have returned, said Brown. There are around 130 firefighters in the district in total. Brown said most of the firefighters had to sleep on park grounds although some were able to sleep in motels and hotels.
"It's an intense scene. I'm sure they are tired," Brown said. "It's a long drive, especially with the engines. They are not very fast."
Brown said the fire personnel who went down south found it gratifying on many levels.
"You're helping out communities," he said. "We have the potential for these fires in our area. We had the Oakland Hills Fire. All of those people would be coming to help us. We are doing something for somebody."
"It's a good experience for training," he added.