They Voice No Regret at Putting Service to Others at the Expense of Their Own Property
The Families of the Firefighters are Safe
Sacramento: CAL FIRE Local 2881, representing the 6,500 firefighters of CAL FIRE, is making emergency donations to the families of eight firefighters who have lost their homes in the past several days.
“We are giving our firefighters some emergency spending money since so many of them have lost almost everything they owned,” said Mike Lopez, President of CAL FIRE Local 2881. “We are also hearing this afternoon that two or three other firefighters may have lost their homes, too.”
Two of the stories:
Paul Duncan, 46, Battalion Chief with CAL FIRE, has been working fires for CAL FIRE for 14 years and has been on fire lines since he was 18. Paul was on his day off when he responded to a fire in the town of Cobb, about twenty miles from his home.
He left behind his wife, who was recovering from back surgery just the day before and two daughters, aged 17 and 15.
He received a panic call from his family that a fire was approaching their home. Paul was able to talk to his wife and daughters as they drove through flames and burning landscape.
Their four-bedroom and three-bath house burned to the ground. The Duncan family lost everything except some clothes, paper work and a computer. A World War I souvenir from his grandfather, a 1911 Colt 45, is also gone forever.
“I would have gone to Cobb even if I’d known the outcome at my own home,” Duncan said. “I am a firefighter because I think I can make a change when times are tough and service to the community matters … of course, I would have loaded up my truck with more things and gotten my family out of there sooner.
“There have been a lot of tears, a lot of hugs and important family time since the loss,” Duncan said.
Robert Taylor, 24, Firefighter I, has been with CAL FIRE for two years. He works out of the Kelsey-Cobb Station in Lake County, but he was fighting the fire in Butte County – on this assignment for a day-and-a-half.
He did not have cell coverage. The incident commander said he’d heard that the fire was intense in Lake County and that structures were being lost.
Once Robert got cell coverage again he accessed the calls from his mother three hours late. His family was being evacuated and she wanted instructions on what to do. By the time Robert reached her she’d been evacuated to Middletown High School and they were being evacuated again to the Calistoga Evacuation Center at the fairgrounds.
His mom said she was sure the house was a loss.
“I was put on a new engine when I returned to Kelsey–Cobb,” Robert said. “I eventually came across my neighborhood and all of the houses in the neighborhood, including mine, were gone. We lived in that house since I was in the third grade. We lost everything. My family got out –mom, dad and my little brother (17). They saved some clothes and pictures and heirlooms from grandma.
“In all honesty, I haven’t had time to think about the house,” Taylor said. “I am still in the help-others mode. If I can prevent this happening to other people then I will. I am still in structure defense. I’m afraid that if I slowed down and thought about the loss it would eat me up. I am staying strong for the family.”
Taylor is ready to continue fighting fires. “I am hearing about other firefighters who have lost their homes, too. The fire doesn’t recognize who owns the homes. It just burns. We are at the mercy of the fires.”