Insights From the Valley’s Local Fire Chiefs About Fighting the CZU Fires

Written by Beckett Glass (News Writer)

“It is very sobering, just the destruction and the power of it and how much worse it could have been. The flood of emotions, it left me with a rock in my stomach,” the words of a brave firefighter fighting the CZU fires. More than a thousand homes burned in the fires in our valley but tens of thousands more were saved by the combined actions of our fire departments and Cal Fire. Refusing to accept the loss of our towns and homes, the brave firefighters of Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, and Felton as well as the Santa Cruz County Cal Fire Unit. As well as the San Mateo County Cal Fire Unit have been battling it fiercely and determinedly for the past month.  

Dan Arndt with the Ben Lomond Fire Department was asked what was it like to see the fire up close and he said,  “It was pretty intense realizing this is our area and to see such a large fire so close to home. I think the intensity made it so much harder to fight it, we all had friends, family, and neighbors in the community. It gave us the will to fight it harder.” He continued on to state what it was like working with other agencies, “It was a neat experience. We trained the same as everybody still has a lot of unique things done to fight a fire. Some firefighters put water everywhere and there some who use hand tools and back  burn techniques to fight it.”  When asked what his most significant memory from fighting the fire was, Arndt stated, “Quite honestly, my son is also a firefighter and he was on the fire engine with me and he was my engineer and he operated the pumps and made sure the team had the tools to work with.” 

Fire Chief Robert Gray with the Felton Fire Protection District, was asked how he felt when Felton got the evacuation order, he explained, “Once we got the order, I knew it was coming. I had been tracking the fire and I had been assisting in Boulder Creek. I was expecting it but it was still surreal watching everyone leave town with all their belongings.”  He goes on to explain his most significant memory surrounding the fires, “Once we got fire into Felton and it was time to deal with it and in some ways, it was a relief because we had something to focus on, it was a turning point when we got to put our plan into place. ” When asked what the moment was when he knew the fire was going to be under control, Gray said, “It was a gradual let down, we went from the uncertainty of what was going to happen and we were able to get fire breaks in, there were 3 days where we had cautious optimism.” Continuing on he explains what it was like going through the portions that the fire had burned through, “It is very sobering, just the destruction and the power of it and how much worse it could have been. The flood of emotions, it left me with a rock in my stomach. If you keep looking at it day after day, it gets hard. The community support has helped but it is hard to look at all the homes burned down. It takes its toll on you.” 

In times of disaster, people come together to help, many have donated to people who have lost anything, there are people donating surfboards, skateboards, and bikes. Our school is operating a place for people to get clothes, backpacks, and other necessities. What is important is that we stay strong and thank those who saved our valley.

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