As the largest wildfire in the state’s history rages on in Northern California, local firefighters are among the emergency personnel from across the state, the country, and the world, working to extinguish the deadly blaze.
Six Laguna Beach firefighters, one battalion fire chief and two engines were first dispatched on July 25 to help battle the Cranston fire in southwest Riverside County. On Aug. 2, they were further deployed to the Ranch fire in Mendocino County, and have since been working to contain the Mendocino Complex fire, the largest ever to burn in California. As of Thursday, that fire had spread to 366,037 acres and was 76 percent contained.
A Utah firefighter died while fighting the Mendocino blaze on Monday, and two other firefighters have been injured. The fire had destroyed 265 structures, with an additional 1,025 structures threatened as of Thursday. Authorities estimate that full containment of the fire could be reached by Sept. 1.
On Thursday, Laguna crews assigned to the Mendocino Complex fire were working on protecting structures, plumbing in hose line, cutting new line and extinguishing hot spots.
Api Weinert, Laguna Beach Fire Department division chief, said Laguna’s firefighters have been working 24-hour nonstop shifts in the front lines of the fires. Weinert said Thursday that local firefighters were working just hundreds of yards from the area where the firefighter from Utah died earlier this week.
“The dangers are still present,” Weinert said. “We hope to get them home soon.”
Weinert said that while all departments statewide are part of a mutual aid plan, Laguna firefighters and resources may be deployed to wildland fires more often than other agencies due to the department’s specialized equipment and training. Laguna sent a Type 3 fire engine with four-wheel drive and a state-owned OES engine to assist with containment efforts.
Weinert said departments across Orange County have dispatched firefighters and resources to aid Northern California, and Laguna is always ready to help when they’re needed.
He recalls when the Oct. 27, 1993 fire brought aid and firefighters to Laguna from across the state.
“They came down to assist us,” Weinert said. “They help us, and we help them.”