Lone Firefighter Holds Blaze at Bay in Foresthill

FORESTHILL -- A Foresthill firefighter tackled a potential wildland fire by himself.

Firefighter Randy Hinkle was stationed at the only remaining fire station in Foresthill after budget cuts. He raced to a fire off Foresthill Road alone after the two other paramedic firefighters at the station left to take a patient to the hospital.

He managed to keep the fire at bay with the help of residents, whom he directed to pull a hose line.

Hinkle is not much for tooting his own horn, leaving his superiors to label his efforts heroic.

"From my standpoint, I couldn’t be more proud," said Battalion Chief Matt Slusher.

The fire burned low-lying brush and flames swept up into heavier timber. Hinkle fought the flames until Cal Fire crews and an airdrop arrived to assist.

Luckily, Hinkle, who has always wanted to be a firefighter, had five years of experience with Cal Fire before joining the Foresthill Fire Protection District.

Hinkle acted none too soon. As a result of the fuel loads and the structures in the area, fire officials say the fire could have been much worse.

"The action he took really kept the size of the fire smaller, that’s for sure," Slusher told FOX40.

The Foresthill Fire Protection District’s lone station is manned by three firefighters but they also provide advanced life support services with an ambulance. When the ambulance is on a call, that leaves one firefighter to operate an engine.

"It’s a very unsafe situation both for the community and the firefighter," said Placer Hills, Foresthill and Newcastle Fire Chief Kirk Kushan.

Rural fire districts once had plenty of volunteer firefighters but state-mandated training and certifications have changed that.

"Nobody has the time to devote to that. It just takes an immense amount of training and commitment," Kushen said.

Restricted state funding means rural fire districts have to go to the voters for tax increases as the Foresthill Fire Protection District has. Residents are being asked for a property tax increase of about $20 per month to bolster the fire district budget but previous tax increases have been voted down in recent years.