When a disaster hits a flood, an earthquake god forbid, a terrorist is the go to fire department. CAL FIRE really exemplifies our primary mission, and that is that we are anal-service and all-risk fire department. Attacking any type of situation, any type of emergency that comes our way. We run the full gamut calls, and we have to know a little bit about everything. We have a culturein our department that we can do anything.
When OES calls for a service, they call CAL FIRE first. There’s no other fire department that can say that they can work from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. Our department’s been around for 100-plus years, and I think it’s likely to be here for 100 more. The men and women of this organization are completely dedicated in their pursuit of making sure that the citizens of California are safe.
As CAL FIRE, we are California’s fire department. And I am proud to wear this patch. You know if we went all the way back to beginning, people today probably wouldn’t even believe what it was like back then. We were issued a tin pot, a hat, a pair of gloves, and a pair of goggles. I worked in a unit where, ifyou didn’t like long sleeves, you cut them off. If you didn’t like hard hats, you wore a cowboy hat.
My initial training lasted about two hours, and I was on the back of a fire engine, which is almost inconceivable today. We had no safety gear. We had no turnout clothing. We didn’t have fire shelters. Our radio communication if you could see somebody, you could hit them with the radio. We didn’t have a lot of things. We didn’t even have computers in every fire station.
We were not real firefighters to a lot of firefighters in the municipal service. Today, that’s different. A lot of what we did on our union side changed that. Needless to say, I’m proud ofwhere CDF was when it started, but 100 times more proud now. Over the last 30 years, there’s been lots of changes inthe fire service, particularly in CAL FIRE CDF. When I started at the department 23 years ago, we primarily did wildland firefighting.
I was on a wild land engine, responding to medical aidsand traffic collisions were kind of new. As we expand, just like other fire departments throughout the state, our types of responses are going to have to expand and evolve. We’re continually asked to push the envelope to do something more and something different. And as technology changes, we change with it and we go forward.
CAL FIRE, like the United States military, is trained and equipped to fight more than one battle at the same time. We handle more wild land fires than any other department in the world. Our incident command teams provide not only organizational structure for wild land fires, but other incidents as well. Whether it be a vegetation fire, earthquakes, floods, a variety of man-made or natural disasters. Basically, we’re fighting wars on our civilian soil, and setting up instant bases in a matter of hours.
Logistics section when we’re activated, we basically build a city. We bring in all the support functions, where we feed, we sleep, and we shower all the fire personnel that are assigned to the incident. The scope of an incident that we might be as little as a couple hundred people up tomaybe even a few thousand. We mobilize the largest firefighting force in the world, and we move quickly and effectively to extinguish all fires in the state of California.
There are 4, wards in the conservation program.These inmates and ward sare part of more than 190 fire crews. They’re spread throughout 39 conservation camps from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. The Fire Captain is responsible for their well-being, responsible to lead them on the fire, direct them. The conservation crew program is an integral part of the overall firefighting capabilities of CAL FIRE. The air attack program is integral to CAL FIRE in its initial attack firefighting phase.
CAL FIRE’s mission statement’s95% of all fires at 10 acres or less, and a big part ofthe reason why that happens is because of aerial assets. We don’t put fires out, but we can be there to start working on them right away, a lot faster than maybe an engine could get to it. Our air bases are spaced within a 20-minute response between each air tanker, so an incident commander is able to get an air craft over the fire within 20 minutes any place in the state of California.
The helitack crew works withthe helicopter to suppress fire. We work together coordinating bucket drops, so while the helicopter is in flight, we would be on the ground.
It’s remarkable howwell we work together, how much they interact withus and tell us what they need, and we’re able to deal with it. The thing about a bull dozer is it never gets tired, especially in grass and brush. You can cover a lot of ground with them a short amount of time. Working in unison with the engine crews, we’ll cut line. They’ll do hose lays up behind us. Where we take the tractorson fires, a lot of it is uncharted territory. And tractor we do run the risk of rollovers. Can only take so much heat with a tractor, but a lot of the time, we are going direct, and it’s pretty exciting. With the bull do zeras a resource, we’re one piece of a big, big toolbox. I’m proud to say that our department has grown and adapted with the state of California, addressing the needs of citizens.
Through our over 140 cooperative agreements with local government, CAL FIRE is the fire department for your local communities. Every time something comes up that someone can’t handle, they call 911, and CAL FIRE shows up. We go from medical aids to traffic collisions, to wild land fires. The level of service providedby paramedics on fire apparatus in general brings up the quality care to the public in general. It’s important to have eparamedics on the engines because time is of the essence. And we strive to be on scene of every call within five minutes. That gives that patient that advantage, if they have stopped breathing, if their heart has stopped.
As paramedics at CAL FIRE, we have a much broader scope than an EMT or first responder– the stuff we can do with cardiac monitors, innovations-wise to help people breathe. We just have a lot bigger toolbox that we can use to help the public in any situation. It’s important for CAL FIRE to have truck company operations for their specialized operations, for ladders, your search and rescue aspects, extrication-related vehicle accidents.
That carries a lot more tools than most engine companies do, and the personnel assigned to that are trained specifically with those tools. Technical rescue is a very wide term that involves a number of different types of out-of-the-ordinary, day-to-day emergency responses. Technical rescue can be any thing from a moving water rescue, a building collapse, what we would consider a heavy rescue, a low-angle rescue, or a high-angle rescue, or someone’s gone down an embankment or stuck up on a steep slope.
Also involves trench rescue, confined space rescue. It’s a very largevariety, as well as urban search and rescue. Our technical rescue team inSan Luis Obispo County averages about 30 rescues a year. Half of them are cliff rescues, and the other half are surf rescues. We also picked up a life guard program that also is heavily involved in the ocean rescue. And it’s the first andonly lifeguard program that CAL FIRE is managing currently. Rescues using our short-haul system when we lower a rescuer over the side. The short-haul operation is a thrill. We do a very controlled repel from the helicopter, everything from water Prescott high terrain. And really, we need to be ready to deal with anything, and the worst.
We respond to any typeof hazardous situation involving hazardous materials. Everything from unknown materials on the side of road to highway incidents, train derailments– we deal with fixed facilities that have hazardous materials int hem– everything from chlorine to ammonia. There’s specialized equipment on the hazmat unit to keep their personnel safe and help us mitigate those calls.
Our equipment being dedicated, we’re on duty every day. Our equipment’s checked out. We’re ready to go. It’s very challenging. Whether it’s fuel additives or terrorist attacks, something’s always changing in the hazmat field. Most aircraft accidents occur either on takeoff or landing, and therefore, there has to be a24-hour presence at the airport to provide fire protection. And since we area county airport, and CAL FIRE provides protection to the county, we offer that service.
As the largest fire department in California, not only is CAL FIRE responsible for the obvious emergencies and call for service that we respond to 24/7, 365– we have many other responsibilities, such as resource management, law enforcement. The department has many, many, many facets. Our academy in Ione is a place that’s like a rite of passage.
You transition from a seasonal employee, and you now our transitioning into a career. We really get a glimpse into the future of our department, seeing that newer generation in our fire service come in and bereally motivated, be professional and excited about that training. What the academy does is it provides that foundational common training state wide. So we have a firefighter academy, and we have a company officer academy. Those are two six-week modules. We call an all-risk academy.It entails all different types of props, scenarios, classes, coursework. You name it, it’s done here.
We want to make sure that we have very well-trained firefighters on the fire ground, that they’re safe and they get the best service possible to the public. Training is important because it prepares us for that all-risk job. To me, training is the most important thing that we do for us asa crew so that we’re able to operate together correctly. We’re able to operate off whatever equipment we have. There’s no chance to learn on the job, when someone’s in danger.
We try to get some sort of training in on a daily basis so that– year round, 365 days– so that, when the alarm goes off, we’re ready to act. You need fire prevention to protect lives and property as well as fire protection. It works hand-in-hand. It’s the responsibility of all of us to perform fire prevention education, outreach, inspection, from the engine company doing a defensible space inspection in a wild land urban interface, to engine companies and fire marshal personnel doing business inspections.
If I can make this building safer when I walk out by noting what needs to be corrected, then I could sleep better at night. Making sure you have a carbonmonoxide monitor and a smoke detector in your home, you’re helping your odds of survival the chances of not getting hurt, protecting your children. And with the population of the state booming to nearly 38 million, we need the public’s help. They provide the defense. 100 foot of defensible space and we’ll provide the offense.
I’m very proud of all of the people in CAL FIRE, and how they respond to growing demands for emergency services in California.