A San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief from Yucca Valley led a strike team of five county fire engines and their crews in fighting the Apple fire in Banning, Beaumont, and Oak Glen last week. Managing editor Tami Roleff talked with the chief and files this report…
“We train when we sign up to be firefighters. We like fighting fire.”
County Fire Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle was one of the 2800 firefighters who were called from around the country to help the Apple fire. He left Yucca Valley just a couple hours after the fire started and didn’t return until Saturday morning.
“We work 24-hour work cycles; so we have 24 hours we’re on the fireline and then off for 24 hours.”
He said it’s not hard to stay awake.
“You have adrenaline flowing and there’s lots of activity to keep you going.”
Tuttle said he and his strike team were defending houses from the encroaching flames, first in the Cherry Valley area, then the Banning Bench, and Oak Glen areas. The first night, firefighters laid down 7000-8000 feet of hose line to surround and protect a mobile home park.
When firefighters arrive, they have a procedure to follow.
“We do a quick assessment of the house, see what kind of threat potential, and we start doing prep. If the homeowners haven’t done do their own clearing, we clear vegetation, lay hose lines.”
Tuttle urges people to leave if they are ordered to evacuate.
“Number 1 for safety. Number 2, when there’s homeowners in the area and the fire gets so intense they decide they have to leave, and we have fire engines coming in, and we have homeowners leaving, the streets get congested, and it just hampers the fire efforts.”
And he said staying behind to water down your house with a garden hose is basically useless.
“A garden hose is no comparison to a fire hose. The heat from the fire is going to drive the moisture out before the fire even gets there.”
While he enjoyed being in the thick of the firefighting, Tuttle said he’s glad to be home.
“After nine days, I was ready to come home.”
As of this morning, the Apple fire is at 33,424 acres and is 60 percent contained.
A crew of firefighters from Morongo Valley returned Tuesday after helping for about five days at the Stagecoach fire in Kern County, just south of Lake Isabella.