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Local firefighters feel the weight of the most deadly firefighting season

Posted at 11:17 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 02:17:07-04

This is the most fatal year for firefighters in California since 2008.

Losing fire firefighters and other personnel at the front lines of the worst fires in California history is weighing on the fire community.

"It’s like losing a brother or sister,” said Chris Elms, spokesperson for the San Luis Obispo County CAL FIRE.

Recently, Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett of the Draper City Fire Department in Utah lost his life battling the Ranch Fire of the Mendocino Complex, Monday August 13, 2018.

He was the first fire personnel to die in the Mendocino Complex and is now the sixth fire personnel to pass away in California this year.


Chief Matthew Burchett,Draper City Fire Department

Before that, Andrew Brake, a heavy Equipment Mechanic Department was killed while he was driving northbound on the Highway 99 when the CAL FIRE vehicle ran off the road, hit a tree and went up in flames. He was assigned to battle the Carr Fire.


Andrew Brake, CAL FIRE

"It’s an extremely dangerous environment that these people are out in, that these firefighters are out in. Unfortunately as we saw yesterday we are seeing people who are paying the ultimate sacrifice to do that job,” said Elms.

Captain Bill white of Atascadero Fire and Emergency Services thinks the unpredictable size and speed of these fires make it more dangerous.

"When somebody dies in one of these fires we really just have to take heart and go what are we doing, take a tactical pause and go what can we do that is better that will make our job, we’re fighting fires aggressively but providing for firefighter safety,” said Captain White.

According to fire officials, it is important to do you part to be fire safe like follow evacuation orders, create a defensible space around your home and have an exit plan.


Firefighters killed in California Wildfires