Seven Tracy firefighters joined about 800 other firefighters on the front lines of the Angora wildfire that has raged through 2,500 acres of forest, scorched 220 homes and forced about 1,000 people to flee neighborhoods near South Lake Tahoe.
The first team of Tracy firefighters drove Engine 94 to South Lake Tahoe High School to hold flames at bay Sunday evening. Capt. Jeff Mason, engineer Michael Oliveri and firefighters Jeff Brown and Ben Moreno joined 27 other firefighters at the scene to protect the school. The four were up most of Sunday night before they took a short break Monday morning, Division Chief Andy Kellogg said.
The team walked around a charred neighborhood near South Lake Tahoe on Monday to search for victims and drench any enduring flames. No deaths or injuries have been reported.
“It’s like a war zone,” Kellogg said after he talked with Mason by phone. “They’re surrounded by devastation.”
Capt. Terry Hein, engineer Dan Peeler and firefighter Matt Gate drove Engine 236 to the edge of the fire Monday afternoon. They met with 20 other firefighters to outline a plan before they stepped in at about 6 p.m. to provide relief for men and women battling the flames. The state’s Office of Emergency Services paid for Engine 236 in December and asked the Tracy Fire Department to help fight catastrophic fires along the West Coast in return.
Each local firefighter is trained to battle flames in unfamiliar areas and to drive engines on mountainous roads.
“We prepare for this,” Kellogg said. “These seven are definitely up there representing the department and the city well.”
The morale among the firefighters remained high, he added.
This is the second severe fire Tracy firefighters have fought this year. A team battled flames near San Andreas in mid-May.
Tracy resident Carol Smith, a shift manager at Harveys Lake Tahoe Casino
Resort in Stateline, South Lake Tahoe, took continuous cancellation calls over the past two days and filled the empty rooms with fire victims.
“Everybody is pulling together,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a while until it’s all taken care of.”
Residents safe from the fire opened up their homes to victims and their pets. Smith’s weekday apartment in South Lake Tahoe was 4 miles from the flames Monday evening.
To contact reporter Danielle MacMurchy, call 830-4221 or e-mail email@example.com.