The 'New Normal:' California Firefighters Face Record-Setting Wildfire Season
- California is fighting firesacross the state right now
and there's no end in sight.
Already this year, wildfireshave scorched the state
in both wild lands and neighborhoods.
Given the hot and dry conditions,
this year's fires could easilysurpass last year's record
of 1.3 million acres.
- This is not new, this is the normal.
We don't see it ending anytime soon.
- Still, the state hopes to gain control
by placing fire camps nearthe biggest outbreaks.
These many cities house anddeploy firefighters each day.
There's over 4,000 firefighters fighting
the Carr fire here.
Most are working 24 hour shifts
and they don't know whenthey'll be going home.
- We're thinking at least for 14 days,
but we could get extendedanother seven on top of that.
- [Heather] As these firefighterssave lives and property,
they try to keep themselvesout of harms way.
In recent weeks, six have diedfighting California fires.
- [Interviewer] Whatmotivates you to do this?
'Cause this is hard work.
- Just a duty to serve andwanting to make a difference.
- We've had a lot of firesdown in southern California
and I've seen the devastationright in our own backyard
and we appreciate when people come up.
So we're trying to return the favor.
- [Heather] At six AM,these firefighters line up
for breakfast, followed bya briefing that highlights
the weather, strategy,and the constant reminder
to stay safe.
Then, they're on their wayfor a minimum of 24 hours.
- With the sieges thatwe've seen, some have been
going up to 72, 96 hours on the line
just because of resources.
- [Heather] If that seems excessive,
firefighters say it'sactually very practical.
- The operation has to be 24 hours because
once you in brief somebody,that plan has been made
for 24 hours.
Those people have beenbriefed on that plan
that they physically have in their hand
and they're gonna carry out that plan.
If we were to switch, let'ssay a regular eight hour shift,
we would have to gothrough that whole cycle
and minutes meaneverything in a fire fight.
- [Heather] So does the weather.
Just as it appears they'refinally gaining control,
firefighters often see thatprogress quickly disappear.
- Just one simple changein the wind or something,
they'll jump ourcontainment lines and then,
it's back off to the racesand it could ya know,
add another week or two.
- [Heather] These firefightersalso know they're likely
facing another recordbreaking fire year in 2018.
- It's been definitely muchmore volatile conditions
with the dryness and stuff,the lack of rains we had
all through California.
Fire seems like it'sbeen much more aggressive
than it has in the past.
- [Heather] There's noone culprit responsible
for these fires.
They're fueled by drought, heat,
dead trees, and constructionin wild land areas.
Most Californians realizethe extreme threat.
If they don't knowsomeone directly affected,
they've likely breathed in the smoky air
that travels far from the fire locations.
The state will spend closeto two billion dollars
just to fight fires this year.
- Hey! Backyard's on fire!
- [Heather] Plus whatever ittakes to repair everything
from utility lines toburned out guard rails.
Thousands of homes andbusinesses must be rebuilt
and many Californians willeither pay higher insurance rates
or be dropped because of the fire risk.
Meanwhile, tough months are still ahead.
Forecasters say the windtraditionally increases
in the first part of Autumn.
But if signs like theseare any indication,
Californians have developeda deep appreciation
for those willing to sacrifice it all.
- It really builds em up.
It's almost like a recoveryprocess for first responders
to know that the community is out there
and they support what they're doing.
- [Heather] Reportingin northern California,
Heather Sells, CBN News.