We Pay Tribute to a Few Local Firefighters Who Left the Area to Battle Blazes—Saving Property and Lives
- Photographed byKat Monk
James Stratton (pictured above)
“As a firefighter/paramedic from a small beach community, I am proud to have played a small role and be given the opportunity to contribute our time and skill sets to these unprecedented California wildfires. The MBFD firefighters have very specific training that allows us to be a part of something larger than Manhattan Beach. We are often called upon to respond to incidents ranging from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, including wildfires, mudslides, civil unrest—all under the California state master mutual aid plan.”
“I did 15 days between the Lake incident and the Bobcat incident. The work can be backbreaking and/or heartbreaking, depending on the day’s assignment. We started our assignment on the Bobcat fire with an intense firefight. We ended it by taking people back to their property and homes. The crew is everything. We get through it together, getting to know each other better every day. It is tight quarters living in the fire engine, but it can be fun.”
“The wildfires here in California are not only getting larger, but the fire season has now become nearly year-round and we can be sent out to fight them for weeks on end. While we’re out there, most of the time our crew remains the same. So not only do we have to trust each other with our lives, but we also have to do our best to enjoy each other’s company for the long time we have together. The fire department doesn’t just provide us with a job but to an extent a second family.”
“Train as if your life depends on it because it does. When I realize I’m in a serious situation, I just fall back and rely on my training. I don’t let my mind take over and hijack me into flight or fear. I just remember to breathe.”
This photo was taken by fireman James Stratton of the August Complex, the largest fire in California history. It burned more than 1 million acres. “Everything was prepped on my division to do a firing operation to stop the fire from spreading and jumping the fire line,” says James.
“All brush fires in L.A. have the potential to destroy property and lives. The gathering of our fire agencies to control these conflagrations brings together resources, manpower and years of knowledge. Yet even with all those assets, there are many times when one feels very vulnerable to such a force. It’s a very real and humbling experience.”
“I was on the Castle fire for 21 days. It’s a really good experience working with so many awesome people from all over the country. I even got to work with the crews that came to help from Mexico.”
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