County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria hasn’t been home much over the last month or so. At the end of August, he spent two weeks fighting the Dolan Fire near Big Sur, and then after a short vacation, he was sent back out to help fight the Glass Fire for 10 days in Sonoma, Napa, and Lake counties. Viloria is back home now, and talked with Managing Editor Tami Roleff about his experiences training to be a strike team leader…
“It’s a great feeling when you get to go help your neighbors.”
County Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Viloria said San Bernardino County has felt the impacts of numerous large disasters over many years, and through the mutual-aid system, has received help from fire departments from throughout California and beyond.
“We cannot do it ourselves; no jurisdiction can.”
Viloria’s strike team of five fire engines and their crews at the Glass Fire concentrated on defending structures—homes, wineries, and other commercial structures. But there’s more to fighting wildfires than pouring water on flames.
“There’s no doubt that firefighters want to aggressively defend a community, but then there’s that other part that we need to do—and have to do—and do just as well, which is the recovery phase.”
He said the mopping up phase—making sure the hot spots were out—can also be very satisfying.
“When they come back home—if in fact their home was saved, and many, many were—they can feel safe knowing that there aren’t hot spots and trees that are going to fall on their home, or other things aren’t going to catch fire.”
And he mentioned another benefit of defending structures during wildfires.
“The thank you signs and the well wishes from people, it’s overwhelming.”