After rolling away from the Swedes Fire and driving into the still burning Rim fire, strike team members from the Cosumnes Fire Department are now back home.
They have almost three decades of experience between them, but they’ve returned with memories and lessons that happen once in a career.
Capturing a blazing welcome the Rim Fire on his cell phone, Cosumnes Fire Captain Kevin McLean says his days in service with his fellow strike team members only got more intense.
“You have all these trees … we call it torching when they all light up like a roman candle and it sounds like a freight train. And yeah it did, just this loud roar, just ’cause it’s burning so hot, so much, so fast,” McLean said.
“We were driving down Highway 120 and we actually could not get to our assignment because the fire had jumped the road. You just had to sit there and kind of keep an eye on it, where your guys are, make sure you have a way out if things go bad,” he said.
“There was so much to learn … could be the smallest thing, watching more experienced guys working the fire line,” said Firefighter/Paramedic Will Fitch.
“Protecting some redwoods … with that two foot scratch line they had that fire backed down right to that line. And it just shows with a little bit of preparation the smallest of lines can hold,” he said.
“When we got to big walls of fire and you could see it, it was kind of an awesome moment. It was very humbling,” said McLean.
The firefighters likened the smoke they had to work and live in to thick San Francisco fog. Most of the strike crew returned with sinus infections because of it.
Wednesday was day 19 of the Rim Fire. It’s spanning 237,000 acres, with containment at 80 percent.