Engine 81, feeling the brunt of statewide wildfires, is taking a well-deserved breather.
The South Pasadena Fire Department’s dependable fire truck, which has been called out to blazes up and down the state, was burned during one of its recent assignments, causing a hose, emergency lighting and equipment on board to melt.
The engine is out-of-service and being repaired, noted SPFD Chief Paul Riddle, adding that all his firefighters have returned to the station after fighting multiple incidents, including the Bobcat Fire burning in the Los Angeles National Forest, which has charred nearly 115,000 acres and is more than 90% contained as evacuation orders have been lifted, and the El Dorado Fire, which burned the area of Yucaipa, west of Oak Glen near Highway 38 in San Bernardino County. It took the life of Charlie Morton, a 14-year veteran firefighter, as 13 injuries were recorded during the fire that destroyed five residences and damaged four others. Fifteen other structures were destroyed.
Crews from South Pasadena have traveled over 2,000 miles, fighting more than 10 blazes throughout the state in a two-month period, logging 38 days on the fire line.
“Challenging,” said Riddle, when asked what it has been like to have so many on his staff fight California wildfires this year? “Staffing was a challenge but our personnel rose to the occasion like they always do. They were all working very long shifts.”
State fire officials announced this week that 4 million-plus acres have been burned in California, more than double the previous record for land consumed by fires in a single year. The previous record was established in 2018 when 1.67 million acres or 2,609 square miles were engulfed by flames. The fire season is slated for another two months in California.
“I can’t say enough about the selfless attitude of our firefighters,” said Riddle, admiring the work ethic of those on the first responders. “During all the challenges of this year I have not heard any complaining or discord. Morale has been high and they remain dedicated in their duty!”
While his department has been on the receiving end of praise for fighting the wildfires, Riddle is grateful for the community support since the fire season began. “There has been thank you notes and goodies arriving daily at the fire station,” he said. “We have also been getting a lot of thank you notes from residents in all the communities that we have protected. They see our city emblem on the fire engine protecting their home and they reach out with gratitude. Our department really appreciates receiving all the notes of gratitude!”