Engine, Firefighters Join Strike Team to Battle Several Fires
JENNIKA INGRAM | Reporter
Lending a hand to fight fires, Los Angeles Fire Department Station 69 in Pacific Palisades has contributed to the effort in Northern California and beyond over the last few weeks: One engine and four firefighters at a time joined a strike team to assist in Napa and other area fires.
“We went to four fires last month,” Captain Daren Kesterson, who joined Station 69 in June, told the Palisadian-Post. “[It was] just a lot of work.”
Firefighters from Station 69 first went to the Apple fire in San Bernardino, which started on July 31 and has burned more than 33,000 acres, according to a Cal Fire report.
“We were there approximately six days,” Kesterson said.
“Then, we went to Lake Castaic,” he added, dubbed the Lake fire. An engine from Station 69 was there for approximately six days, home for one day and then back for three days before heading to the LNU Lightning Complex fires in Napa, Kesterson explained.
The Lake fire in LA County burned 31,089 acres and is 95% contained after being active for 26 days beginning August 12, according to a Cal Fire report updated September 6.
Although a rotation of firefighters joined the effort for different legs, Kesterson was on the team the entire duration.
The LNU Lightning Complex fires in Northern California scourged through 375,209 acres and is 91% contained, according to a Cal Fire Report on Tuesday, September 8.
The LNU Lightning Complex fires, which began August 17, continues to burn after 21 days, and firefighters are continuing to build containment lines and fire suppression repair with active teams through the area.
“There are multiple fires in the Northern California area and different lightning complexes up there, and the one LAFD Station 69 helped with was the one in Napa at Milton,” Kesterson said. “We were all over up there. It was such a huge area.”
A strike team has five fire engines, with Station 69 contributing one engine. Their engine joined the firefighting efforts in Napa for approximately 13 days.
“Together with a battalion, they will go to a certain incident,” Captain Jeff Brown of Station 69 explained to the Post. During that time, there is still full coverage for Pacific Palisades because a reserve engine will come in.
“You have to be available for 14 days to be on a strike team,” Kesterson explained. “Our dispatchers will call and we all caravan together. When they are out there, firefighters are on 24-hour shifts, so every day we did something different. We were doing hot spots and putting those out. One night we did the backfiring, one night we cut hose down.”
Brown explained that they put in about 7,000 feet of hose, which will stay there for about two or three weeks.
“We backfired about seven miles,” Kesterson said. “We worked from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. … Every day is a different assignment.”
The strike team also works to protect structures, a task Station 69 did for each of the fires over the past month.
“They will put us into a neighborhood and protect the homes,” Kesterson added. “These were large, ranch-style homes.”
Kesterson shared some of the differences with the fire in Napa compared to the Getty fire, which burned near Brentwood in October 2019, prompting evacuations and school closures in the Palisades.
“It’s rugged terrain and more pine trees, different topography than the Getty,” he explained. “We have different brush here than in Northern California. There’s more forest in Northern California.”
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