‘Our families are making a sacrifice too’: Crews battle California wildfires

World Today

Mendocino-Complex Fire In Northern California Grows To Largest Fire In State's HistoryLODOGA, CA – AUGUST 07: A firefighter monitors a back fire while battling the Medocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which is made up of the River Fire and Ranch Fire, has surpassed the Thomas Fire to become the largest wilfire in California state history with over 280,000 acres charred and at least 75 homes destroyed. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

A wildfire that has forced the evacuation of around 20,000 people near Los Angeles may have been intentionally set. Officials say they arrested a man in connection to the “Holy Fire,” which has burned almost 4,000 hectares, and is only 5 percent contained.

Farther north, crews are battling the Carr Fire – which on Thursday claimed its 8th victim – and another fire that is the largest in California history.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

At sunrise in Ukiah, California, thousands of firefighters are preparing for another grueling day.

Each crew member is assigned a task: Some pick up important supplies, others attend the latest operations briefing.

The Mendocino Complex Fire is the largest in California history, having scorched more than 120,000 hectares. While crews have managed to contain the fire to largely wilderness areas, this makes it all the more difficult to reach.

“When we look at the fire in total, it would appear we have made great progress,” according to Fire Captain Ian MacDonald. “However , the fire that’s left – the uncontrolled edge that we are currently fighting fire on… it is in rugged mountainous terrain and it is very difficult to get to.”

For many, this routine is about to enter a third week. The firefighters know they will likely be here until September, and possibly longer. 

“The toughest thing about all of this is being away from our families,” Fire Captain Matt Brown said. “Our families are making a sacrifice too. We are out here, helping people we don’t know. And they are giving up time with their husbands and their wives to be out here helping people they don’t even know.”

Among those helping with the efforts are firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. It’s a partnership than has been in place for fifty years.

“The American task force team came out and assisted with the earthquakes in 2010, so we are really grateful to provide that reciprocal help,” Principal Fire Officer Thomas Harre of Auckland, New Zealand explained.

But despite the recent progress in containing the Mendocino Complex Fire, this remains a huge operation. And there are fears that as the sun begins to break through the thick smoke, further fires – possibly closer to towns and villages – are likely.

This means firefighters are facing a race against time to establish containment lines, desperately hoping they won’t be needed.