Cathedral City Firefighters Help Battle N. California Wildfire

Crews safely return to Valley after battling stubborn blaze last week

CC Fire Returns (2)

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - As California experiences one of the worst droughts in history, it's creating dangerous fire conditions throughout the entire state.

"Firefighters are experiencing extreme erratic firefighting conditions out there, so its extremely hazardous," Battalion Chief Eric Houser of the Cathedral City Fire Department said.

In northen California, at least a dozen wildfires are burning in the region, the biggest the Eiler fire in Shasta County. It's charred more than 32,000 acres and destroyed more than 21 buildings, including 7 homes.

Firefighters from across the state are heading to help battle the blaze, 4 from Cathedral City just returned after battling the stubborn blaze last week. Cathedral City firefighter Mike Porto helped battle the blaze.

"The closer you get then you do see the big plume of smoke and at that point the adrenaline really kicks in," he said.

The Cathedral City Fire Department participates in the OES program, which is part of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, allowing them to travel with their mutual aid engine and help battle wildfires.

"Within a very short period of time, firefighting resources and personnel can be dispatched to any incident within the state," said Battalion Chief Houser.

This isn't the first time the fire department's been called out to help. Last year they helped battle the Mountain fire in our local mountains. This time though, they had 30 minutes to gather their gear and get on the road. The drive took them 17 hours.

For firefighter Mike Porto he says the anticipation builds going into the unknown.

"You never know what you're going to get really, its all dependent on mother nature really," Porto said.

The different terrain also means crews having to be on their 'A' game.

"You know the trees are taller and thicker, so that's a little bit different than southern california to what we're used to down here," said
While not on the front lines, firefighters helped put out hot spots and mop up some of the burned areas using special protective gear.
"We're going longer distances so we need to dress lighter, have lighter equipment than what we normally have," Porto said.

The firefighters spent 5 days in Northern California before returning safely home.

Thanks to cooler temperatures firefighters in northern California are gaining the upper hand on the Elier fire. As of Thursday night it was 85% contained.

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