California Wildfires: East County firefighters return from the f - 100.7 San Diego - True Variety - 1007sandiego.com

California Wildfires: East County firefighters return from the front lines

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Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8 Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8 / AP) – A team of East County firefighters returned home to their families Wednesday after spending more than two weeks on the front lines of the Ferguson Fire.

The fire has burned more than 63,000 acres and has closed down parts of Yosemite National park. It continues to burn out of control. The San Diego Central Zone Type-3 Engine Strike Team was sent to fight the blaze on July 16th, three days after it started.

“When we got up there, we arrived and they were switching base camps. We went straight to the fire line,” said Lakeside Fire Division Chief Bernie Molloy. The team quickly fell into round the clock shifts, 24-hours on, then 24-hours to rest up and prepare for the next shift. Each new shift brought new challenges.

Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8

“Sometimes we would directly attack the fire. Sometimes we would construct fire line. Other times, we would support burning operations, supporting back fires that burn into other fires,” said Chief Molloy.

Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8

The team also had to get used to the topography of the region. “Different vegetation, timber, there were rivers, it was different than we are used,” said Chief Molloy.

So far, two people have been killed in the Ferguson Fire. A heavy equipment operator and a hotshot captain. The captain was 33-year-old Brian Hughes. He was killed by a falling tree.

“Trees would come down across the road, burning trees. We would get out with saws and remove the trees so we could keep moving,” said Chief Molloy.

After two weeks of being on the front lines, the local strike team members from Lakeside, Santee, San Miguel, Viejas and Barona said they are relieved to be back home. “We are all missing our families, but we know we all have a job to do and our families are going to be there to support us,” said Chief Molloy.

Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8

National Park Service officials said Tuesday that the scenic Yosemite Valley and other areas will be closed at least through Sunday due to heavy smoke from the so-called Ferguson Fire. The closure began July 25.

It was the longest closure at Yosemite since 1997, when floods closed the park for over two months.

Authorities on Wednesday also ordered the evacuation of the tiny community of Wawona, south of the park, which has fewer than 200 residents.

Photo Courtesy of Division Chief Bernie Molloy via News 8

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