Well my update to the 9/4 entry wasn’t entirely correct. Two fires continued to burn, and last week they both flared up again. The largest, the Honeydew fire has spread past 9000 acres, and is working its way towards Shelter Cove. Ferndale VFD has had Engine #3 down at the fire camp since last Thursday, providing fire and rescue coverage for the helibase. We’ve been sending down a crew of three each day to staff the truck. Today was my turn. I had to get up early as we were supposed to be there and ready to go at 8:00. When we arrived we found the operation to be much larger than we expected. There must have been around 200 trucks in the parking lot. The majority of them were CDF pickup trucks, but there were crew carriers, engines, and plenty of support vehicles, some were semi-trucks. There were mobile kitchens, communication tents, and two different helibase centers.
We are providing support for the smaller helicopters which are primarily used for mapping, scouting, and directing the teams on the ground. The other helibase had the larger copters that were doing the water drops. Our base had 10 helicopters, which seemed to arrive and depart almost constantly. Since we were supposed to be in full turnouts whenever there was a landing or takeoff in progress, we spent a good part of the day taking our jackets on and off. Only during the afternoon did the activity slow enough that we could peel our pants down to cool our legs too. This wasn’t as much physical work as actually being on the front line as I was earlier, but it was just as taxing on the body due to the heat. You have to wear a set of turnouts to understand just how warm they are.
The helicopter pictured was the oddest and oldest of the group. Unlike most modern helicopters where the pilot sits in the front, this 1950s vintage helicopter has the cockpit on the second floor. The visibility for landing must really be terrible. This old purple dinosaur was of course nicknamed Barney.