Three Sonoma Valley fire engines and crews are part of strike teams that have been sent to Southern California to help fight the out-of-control wildfires that are racing through the Southland.
But even with the deployment, the Valley is not short staffed.
Sonoma Valley Fire Chief Steve Akre said the department has sent two Type 1 engines and a type 3 engine to fires in the Los Angeles area, but that the department still has four Type 1 and three Type 3 engines available – and that doesn’t include equipment from other Valley fire departments.
Type 1 engines are used for structure fires and rescues and the like while a Type 3 engine is designed to fight wildfires.
“This doesn’t impact us,” Akre said. “Before we commit, we make sure we can maintain our staffing and capabilities.”
Tuesday afternoon, the department sent engine 3381 to the Creek Fire in the San Fernando Valley. The engine, which is staffed by Capt. Bill Harper, engineer Dustin Garcia and firefighters Joe Gilmore and James Molinar, was part of a county strike team.
Later that day, the department’s Office of Emergency Services engine, OES-391, with Capt. Gabe Stirnus, engineer Jason Campbell and firefighters Justin Semenero and Bob Molesworth were also dispatched to the Creek Fire.
Wednesday, the department sent engine 3375, a Type 3 engine, with Capt. Jim Kracke, engineer Bryan Carlson, and firefighters Lisa Hardy and Kristin Johnson were sent to the Skirball Fire that’s threatening the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
Sonoma Valley Battalion Chief Spencer Andreis said the crews are facing much the same conditions they faced during the firestorms here in Sonoma County back in October.
“They’re facing windy and dry conditions,” Andreis said. “They’re bracing for the worst.”
He said the crews are working 24-hour shifts but like here, they’re preparing to work longer shifts.
Andreis said the county has sent 15 engines and crews to Southern California. “The county is at its maximum drawdown,” he added.
As of Thursday afternoon, there are four wildfires burning in the Southland. At that time, more than 116,000 acres had burned and more than 200,000 people had been evacuated. Almost 5,500 firefighters are battling the blazes.
“This had been a very busy fire season,” Chief Akre said. “We are well practiced.”
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