MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Tired and worn out a 20-member firefighting crew returned to West Virginia Thursday after a 14-day tour of duty fighting a wildfire in northern California.
“There’s a lot of days we were working 16 hours and it was 96, 97 degrees, your fire line gear weighs about 25 pounds at least and your hand tool, so you were probably carrying about 30 pounds when you left camp,” the state Division of Forestry’s Chris White said Thursday from Morgantown on his way home.
It marked White’s 12th year fighting western state wildfires. He was deputy crew boss on this tour. He said the West Virginia crew, made up 16 Division of Forestry staff members and four specially trained volunteer firefighters, helped make some significant progress against the Beaver fire.
“Before we left it was basically 100 percent contained. We got there right after it got good and started,” White said of the Beaver Fire area in Klamath National Forest.
There was a first for White on this trip–a handful of those on the fire line had to deploy fire shelters.
“None of our people, but there were three people that had to deploy,” he said. “We were evacuated that day when the plume dominated.”
A fire shelter is used to protect a firefighter as flames pass right over them.
“There was some pretty extreme fire behavior on some days,” White said.
The West Virginia crew provided some much needed rest for the western crews and now White said they were looking forward to getting some rest themselves.
“Everything out there is way bigger than anything we have here. You might have a fire here where you have 10 or 15 guys on it and out there you’re going to have 2,000 people there,” he said.