Utah Task Force 3 Assigned To Woolsey Fire Near Malibu
SERRANO VALLEY, Calif. – It’s certainly not for everyone, but JJ Wallace, who’s part of Utah Task Force 3, couldn’t think of a better career.
“It’s in your blood. And once you’ve had a taste of it, if it’s for you, you can’t get away from it,” he said while digging a shovel into burned soil.”
Wallace is a firefighter with the North Summit Fire Department.
He’s one of several firefighters assigned to Utah Task Force 3 to help fight the Woolsey fire burning near Malibu in Southern California.
“It’s our way to give back. It’s our way to serve,” said Wallace.
Wednesday afternoon, the team was assigned to dig for hot spots in the Serrano Valley area of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Other crew members were assigned to protect homes in case the fire burned back into the area.
Utah Task Force 3 is made up of the North Summit Fire Department, Park City Fire District, Wasatch County Fire, and Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
The team is one of four Utah Task Force teams currently in Southern California helping to fight the Woolsey Fire.
“We have a history of volunteerism and wanting to help people and obviously these people down here are hurting and they need our help,” said RL Duke, who is a Captain with Wasatch County Fire.
After staging near the fire incident command post in Camarillo, Task Force 3 was sent to another staging area at Sycamore Canyon Beach just off of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Once the hand-crews got to the valley floor, firefighters started digging into the ground to check for hot spots.
It is back-breaking, labor-intensive hard work.
Of course, the firefighters say they love it.
“I love helping. It’s kind of what I like to do,” said Travis Wright, who is a firefighter with Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with helping out communities. I’m originally from California, too.”
They’ve all seen video and pictures of the damage the Woolsey Fire has caused.
As of Wednesday evening, the fire has burned 98,362 acres, destroyed 504 structures, and killed two people.
However, it is just one of several wildfires currently burning in California, which is why Utah’s firefighters volunteered to leave their families behind to help.
This assignment is also a break from what they’re used to, like seeing helicopters dipping for water in an ocean.
The view of the ocean from mountain roads is also something these firefighters aren’t used to seeing.
“Oh, you’re always nervous. I mean, it’s hiking in steep country that you don’t really know,” said Kenny Kendall, who is a firefighter with Wasatch County Fire. “Around Utah, you don’t really see anything this steep. I mean, this is steep country. You look down and it goes quite a ways.”
Even with all the new experiences, though, the job is similar; help get the fire out and keep people safe.
“I hope that if it ever happened to my family or my home, that I would get the same type of treatment,” said Wallace.
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