News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.

After a year of fires, firefighters reflect on their "rewarding" profession




SANTA ROSA, CA - OCTOBER 13: Lisa Corwin, center, watches as firefighters search for a strongbox and a wedding ring through the remains of a neighbor's home in the Fountaingrove neighborhood on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. Twenty four people have died in wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed over 3,500 homes and businesses in several Northern California counties.  (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
SANTA ROSA, CA - OCTOBER 13: Lisa Corwin, center, watches as firefighters search for a strongbox and a wedding ring through the remains of a neighbor's home in the Fountaingrove neighborhood on October 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. Twenty four people have died in wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed over 3,500 homes and businesses in several Northern California counties. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Listen to story

08:13
Download this story 11.0MB

Paul Lowenthal couldn't believe it when his manager asked him to take a vacation.

"He came to me and said, 'I need to order you to take four days off.' And I just sort of laughed at him," Lowenthal told Take Two's A Martinez.

Lowenthal is the assistant fire marshal for the Santa Rosa Fire Department. With 2017 being the worst year on record for fires in the state of California, he and his fellow firefighters have been constantly working to contain a multitude of blazes for most of the year. 

That includes the fires in Northern California, where Lowenthal's own home burned down.

In spite of that, the last thing he wants is a vacation.

"I enjoy what I'm doing," Lowenthal said. "I want to keep moving forward."

The widespread and powerful blazes were enough of an obstacle for service members to deal with. But the fires were also stoked by tough weather conditions that made things even more difficult.

"[We had] almost six days of a Santa Ana wind event," said Mike Mohler, the battalion chief with Cal Fire.  "I know weather professionals at the National Weather Service say that hasn't happened in almost 30 years."

Mohler said the constant fires this year have taken a toll.

"The term for it is, 'hit a wall,'" Mohler said. "It's really taking the breath out of everyone with the devastation and the fatalities."

But Mohler said that his profession is still incredibly rewarding. He and his fellow firefighters have worked hard to interface with community members. They've helped them rebuild and feel safe as they deal with the devastating circumstances.

"The community understands these horrible situations," Mohler said. "But they come together. They embrace it. They do what needs to be done and they move forward.  For me, that's the measure of success." 

Paul Lowenthal agreed.

"We're tied to our community. We're here for as long as it takes," Lowenthal said. "It's a unique task, but I don't want to stop doing it."

But Lowenthal still looks forward to the day the fires are completely extinguished. "I've got a nine-year-old daughter, and I promised her I would take her on a vacation when things calm down.  We're shooting for spring break."