More Utah firefighters return from battling fires in California

Posted at 10:34 PM, Oct 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-22 00:36:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly 8,000 firefighters continue to battle nine active wildfires burning in California. Luckily, some cooler temperatures and higher humidity have provided much-needed help, allowing 48 local firefighters who were out there helping to return home.

Eric Holmes, a Unified Fire Authority Public Information Officer, was one of them.

"It was a pretty amazing experience on a number of different levels, but coming home always feels great," Holmes said.

After a week in California helping crews battle several massive, destructive fires, battalion Chief Dustin Dern is feeling grateful to be back in Utah.

"We were definitely on the tail-end of the fire assignments they had in northern California," he said. "We made it to the Bear Fire for a day."

Being sent toward the end of the mission, they didn't see the worst of the worst with their own eyes.

“We didn't even make it to a lot of the really nasty areas, but just looking at the pictures from the Santa Rosa area is really heartbreaking,” Holmes said.

However, they were happy to provide the help that was needed. In this case, mostly structure protection.

"We didn't have a lot of interaction with the residents on the incident we were on," Dern said. "By the time we arrived they had already evacuated that neighborhood."

They may not have met a lot of affected Californians face-to-face, but everyone they spoke to expressed gratitude.

"All the residents we ran into, the people from California, they were grateful for all the states and all of the resources pulling together and sending extra folks out to help," Dern said.

It was also an opportunity to travel on the road with firefighters throughout the valley, who they don't get the chance to interact with on a daily basis.

"People always say it takes a certain type to be a firefighter, and meeting those type of people outside of our agency, you know we're all the same," Holmes said. "Our humor is very similar and so it was a very cool experience hanging out with those guys as well."

Providing some light moments during a dark assignment.

"My heart certainly breaks for the Californians who have suffered and lost so much throughout this," Holmes said.