Firefighters have been battling dangerous and challenging wildfires for months now and the Caldor and Dixie fires are taking frontline crews to the brink of exhaustion.
Nightfall doesn’t mean firefighters on the frontlines get to rest. For some, sun down is only a shift change that lasts for days.
“They’re in hot conditions working these fires 24/7,” said Brian Centoni of the Alameda County Fire Department. “They’re eating and sleeping on the line many times.”
The department has 30 members working the Monument, Dixie and Caldor fires as the department maintains full staffing levels.
To put this in perspective, Alameda County firefighters usually work two days on and four days off. But when they’re on big fires, they can work seven to 14 days straight. And Cal Fire requires its employees to work 21 days straight with only two days off.
It’s dangerous work, exhausting physically and also mentally, but it’s what they train for.
“A lot of times our firefighters are deployed to a fire and depending on the state’s needs they can be deployed to another fire,” said Centoni.
It’s difficult work, especially during COVID and being away from home at the start of the school year.
“Most of them missed their children’s first day of school because they’re over here fighting this fire,” said Carlos Alcantar, Cal Fire spokesperson.
Missing days like that are tough and some even celebrate birthdays batting flames.
Many however wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s the most important part to get everyone home safely, spend some time with their family and get ready for the next big incident,” said Alcantar.