Fighting the Raging Inferno | South Pasadena Fire Department in Attack Mode

South Pasadena Firefighters prepared to fight massive fires 14 days before receiving relief

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | A youngster appreciates what South Pasadena’s fire department does to protect the community.

Members of the South Pasadena Fire Department continue to battle Southern California wildfires.

It all started last Thursday when SPFD Captain Kris Saxon, Engineer Justin Furtado and Firefighter/paramedics Joseph Monticone and Scott McLellan were dispatched to the Hill Fire in Camarillo but shortly after were reassigned to the Malibu area to fight the Woolsey Fire.

“They basically worked about 41 straight hours without a break,” explained South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle. “They went from home to home and described it as apocalyptic in nature. There was absolute chaos. They saved some structures and had to walk away from structures.”

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On the rewarding side, Riddle said South Pasadena’s team of firefighters saved some horses through their efforts on the fire line. Furtado told the fire chief the South Pasadena firefighters were protecting one property where about five horses were running around in the area.  “People were leaving horses with notes saying ‘Please save my horse.’ Our guys steered the fires around the structures and were able to protect the horses.”

Following that 41-hour stretch, Saxon, Furtado, Monticone and McLellan were given a 12-hour break before going back to battle blazes on Monday. With a flare-up reported in the Semi Valley area, the South Pasadena firefighters were sent there to battle the new fire.

Engineer Mike Larkin has replaced Furtado, who has been rotated out in the only change in the department’s effort to fight the fires.

Riddle said South Pasadena’s firefighters would likely be fighting fires for a total of 14 days before relieving them with a new crew from the city.

The massive Woolsey Fire was 47 percent contained and burned 97,620 acres or approximately the size of Denver.

Fire department officials are calling the Woolsey Fire one of largest on record in Los Angeles County, going back some 100 years. More than 480 structures have been destroyed in its path while another 86 have been damaged and thousands more are threatened.

About 500 miles to the north, the largest of the three major blazes – The Camp Fire – in the state wiped out the entire town of Paradise. On Wednesday, Governor Brown, FEMA Administrator Brock Long and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, visited what’s left of the town after fires completely destroyed it.

“We prepare for it, but we haven’t seen these kinds of conditions for a long, long time,” said Riddle after learning firefighters experienced 65 mile per hour winds.  “I’m proud of our guys and all the men and women who put on the badge and commit to save lives and properties. To risk their lives to save people makes you proud.”


California Wildfires at a Glance

Three major wildfires in California are currently underway.  The breakdown of the numbers is of Wednesday morning, according to Cal Fire officials.

Woolsey Fire

  • Ventura County, Los Angeles County
  • 97,630 acres have burned.
  • 47 percent contained.
  • 2 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured.
  • 435 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger.

Hill Fire

  • Ventura County
  • 4,532 acres have burned.
  • 95 percent contained.

Camp Fire

  • Butte County
  • 135,000 acres have burned.
  • 35 percent contained.
  • 48 fatalities confirmed, 3 firefighters injured.
  • 8,817 structures destroyed, 7,600 of them homes.

    PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | South Pasadena firefighters are among first responders battling Southland blazes. SPFD Chief Paul Riddle, above, praises not only the local firefighters for their efforts but other fire department personnel who proudly wear the badge.