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Local firefighters describe their time on the Dixie Fire in northern California

Posted at 9:04 AM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 15:01:53-04

The Dixie Fire has burned nearly 600,000 acres across four counties in Northern California. It's left families without homes and wiped out communities. The magnitude of the fire has called for mutual aid from all over, including firefighters from San Luis Obispo City Fire Department. There is still five SLO City Fire Department personnel, including a fire deputy fire chief, a vehicle mechanic, a captain, an engineer, and a firefighter.

Since the Dixie Fire started in July, SLO City Fire Department has dispatched 16 personnel, including engineer, Alec Flatos.

"The weather was extremely hot some of the days were up to 108 degrees," Flatos said.

Flatos spent a total of nine days on the Dixie Fire nearly one week after it broke out.

"There's large timber, there are very, very large trees, and that's mixed with some grassland so the fires move very rapid," Flatos said.

Fire Captain Mark Vasquez has been a firefighter for nearly three decades. He acknowledges a stark contrast in the wildfires he covered at the start of his career versus today.

"It's changed dramatically," Vasquez said. "In terms of fire growth, potential, fires that were stopped at five-ten acres are becoming large campaign fires."

Those changes were evident during his eight-day stretch on the Dixie Fire. A fire so large, the commute to his assignment clocking in at three hours one way.

"Our role was part of a strike team," We had a wildland engine and our team was dispatched to protect PG&E infrastructures so they had major dams and facilities and the fire was backing down and threatening those infrastructures."

Trevor Weis, a firefighter with SLO City Fire Department, says his assignment took him to the small town of Jonesville to do structure protection.

"When I was up there it was 20 mile per hour winds and that was pushing fire," Weis said.

Protection that did not go unnoticed.

"On our days off when we have time to recover we have time to meet people in the community and they are so thankful," Weis said.