A Cal Fire captain is among a crew of local firefighters recovering from injury after a tree fell on them while they fought the Dixie Fire in Northern California.
“They all (injured firefighters) seem to be in good spirits, being with their family. There is a long way to go for the fire captain, but it looks like they will all make a full recovery,” Cal Fire Captain Frank LoCoco said.
LoCoco told NBC 7 that his team has deployed 20 fire engines and one rotating crew since the fire sparked more than a month ago. He said crews work 24-hour shifts, rest 24 hours and repeat the cycle until they’re relieved by another crew.
More than 569,000 acres have been burned and the fire is only 31% surrounded, according to Cal Fire.
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LoCoco described current fire conditions in Northern California as “explosive fire activity."
Thick smoke, torched trees and raining ash were seen on a video taken by a member of the San Diego Fire Department earlier this month. SDFD, Chula Vista, El Cajon, San Miguel, Poway, Santee, National City, and Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire all have boots on the ground in the Dixie Fire area.
“It’s definitely mentally and physically taxing,” LoCoco said. “They’re seeing incredible fire activity up there.”
At times, flames were spreading 30,000 – 50,000 acres overnight and were fueled by gusty winds and dry vegetation," according to LoCoco.
“They have large trees there, thick canopies,” he explained.
The large trees have made conditions even more dangerous for firefighters. Earlier this month, a charred tree crashed onto a Cal Fire/San Diego crew. LoCoco said a fire captain broke several ribs. He was in the hospital about a week before being flown back home Friday. A group of fellow firefighters greeted the injured captain as he arrived back in San Diego.
It’s not clear how much longer local crews will be assisting in the firefight, but LoCoco said his team is well trained and prepared to continue rotations.
“We’re here for the state of California and we’ll go where the need is,” he said.