BERRY CREEK, Calif. (KTXL) — As the smoke and flames from the North Complex fire continued to make their way through Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, driving more and more families out, the Search and Rescue Team of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office was heading in.
“And they’re literally putting themselves in extreme hazard,” said team spokesman Dennis Schmidt. “Some of the areas that they were evacuating were just minutes away from being overran by fire.”
Schmidt is a member of the all-volunteer organization and said their staff have faced some of the most challenging terrain in the wildfire.
“The biggest challenge is it just happened so quickly. It comes in and it starts out being something you think is gonna be very small and it just keeps snowballing and getting bigger and bigger,” he explained. “And you almost instantly run out of resources. You can’t get enough people in the right place at the right time.”
Schmidt said a number of volunteers used their vacation time to search in the most dire locations.
Now, they are in need of more protective equipment.
“We do everything as volunteers. We’re not paid for the time that we’re out there,” Schmidt told FOX40. “We do it because we love helping people and, certainly, days like today, weeks like this week are when we get to really get that opportunity to help people in a big way.”
As fire crews put out the flames, search crews who have lived through some of the most heartbreaking wildfires in California’s history were prepared to look through what’s left and, hopefully, find answers for anxious families.
“Like deja vu from the Camp Fire,” Schmidt said. “Most of us on the team were here for the Camp Fire and many of us, in our professional capacities, are still trying to recover from the Camp Fire.”