Rookie firefighter has first big assignment on Southland fires

Firefighters from all over California pitched in against the Marek and Sesnon fires this week. Among them is a strike team from the Alameda County Fire Department. That crew spent yesterday doing mop-up work. It's not as glamorous as fighting a fire, but necessary to make sure the fire doesn't flare up again. One of the firefighters on the Alameda County strike team just graduated from the academy. The Sesnon Fire was the first chance for 26-year-old Francis Blay to work a big job. He took a break to talk to KPCC's Brian Watt.

Francis Blay: It was kinda, you know, jump the gun. I was at the station workin'. Just got transferred to Station 8, and we just got the call, and we had an immediate need, and packed up our stuff and headed on down, so... way more than what I ever expected.

I at least saw about 300 fire engines, Type 1's, Type 3's... and, just the way they do things is so systematic and methodical. So it was a great experience. And just the point of having to maybe have to go out there was probably the most exciting thing for me.

And just being able to see the culture of being around a whole different bunch of fire departments coming together for one goal, and that's to, you know, try to save the houses of many of these citizens out here. So it's a great experience.

Brian Watt: So even though you didn't exactly attack, like, a fire, head on, really do battle with one, this is a pretty good first step into the water, or the flames.

Blay: Yeah, I mean, just the whole experience in itself, I mean, is good for any young firefighter. And one thing about being in the fire service that I've learned is that every experience is different, and you're learning from every situation. So even though I wasn't at the head of the fire when it first began, I feel like we were in the position that, if something really did jump off, we would be right there to, you know, to help the situation.

So this whole experience has been great. And for my first strike team, I couldn't ask for anything else right now. And nobody got hurt, and that's the most important thing. Y'know, we did save what we could, and more importantly, y'know, all our firefighters and most of the citizens were able to go home safe, and that's the most important thing.

Watt: Does anyone get left behind? I mean, is there a unit left in Alameda County? I mean, I'm, it seems like there's a lot of personnel down here from Alameda County. I'm wondering if there's a fire there, is someone gonna be ready?

Blay: That's, y'know, and that's all part of our plan. I mean, just because, you know, we have, I guess we have five units actually out here right now, but we definitely have enough reserves and back rigs to fill those positions. And some of the guys who are on other shifts have to fill those positions for us, so it's all accounted for, that the citizens out in Alameda County are definitely getting taken care well of. Not a problem at all.