FORESTHILL, Calif. (KTXL) — A crew out of Placerville that operates heavy equipment to help fight the Mosquito Fire was forced to run from the flames.
“Over on CAL FIRE radios, it came up to watch the smoke. And then it was, ‘Hey, get out of there now. Pull your crews now,’” Jeremiah “Bear” Schenck, with On-Site Equipment Inc., said.
The rapid spread of fire on Tuesday put the men in the path of unrelenting flames as they operated heavy equipment, known as the masticator.
“Yesterday, when we were down on that dozer line down there, that fire came up so quick, with all of those masticators. The masticators don’t move very fast. So we ended up, actually just leaving the masticators, jumping out and running to the nearest truck and trying to get out of this canyon,” Blake Prall said.
“It was a little nerve-racking because we didn’t know where the fire was at. We kind of know the roads around here. It looked pretty bad,” Kyle Hausam said.
Once they were safe, they later checked if the lines they worked hard on held up. They did.
The masticator chews up trees in its path to reduce the fuel, making a fire less likely to jump across a roadway.
Firefighters anticipated the inversion layer lifting Tuesday, with fresh oxygen, would fuel the Mosquito Fire to move up the hillside at Worton’s market, which is the last stand between the flames and Foresthill.
Firefighters credit the operators for helping stop the flames from attacking Foresthill.
“And they gave us a good pat on the back for it, just because it really did help. We took all that heat out,” Prall said.
But the humble group of firefighters was quick to pass along the credit.
“We didn’t have everything to do with it. It was a good pat on the back. We talked about it on the way back to camp, the good job we did,” Schenck said.
“I’ll tell you the real heroes yesterday I thought was the hand crews, the engine crews and these air attack guys were just freakin awesome,” Mark Smith said.
As far as the trees they have to knock down, they said the fire burns the undergrowth, giving nutrients to the soil. New growth will again take place.