Our community is on the front lines and behind the scenes of the hellish wildfires that at their height on Tuesday endangered an estimated 1 million Californians in seven Southern California counties. We should appreciate the efforts of those who were called to duty.
First sent were four Tracy firemen, Capt. Jeff Mason, Engineer Darryl Scott, Engineer Trent Vick and firefighter Jeff Brown. They and an engine from Station 94 were part of a strike team from San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties sent to the Witch Creek Fire, the largest wildfire in San Diego County.
Then went eight truckloads of Meals Ready to Eat — packaged non-perishable food — from the Defense Distribution San Joaquin’s Tracy depot. Their destination: northern San Diego County. Also sent were fire-resistant "overgarments" for Marines at Camp Pendleton. As President Bush was declaring a disaster in the seven counties, the Tracy depot was preparing to ship tents, cots, blankets and water cans.
Although the local Department of Defense warehouse has undertaken such humanitarian missions frequently in its 65 years, this week’s operation is unique because the Federal Emergency Management Agency, after the relief disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, designated Tracy and Sharpe, its sister warehouse in Lathrop, as "deployable depots" in disasters. They were selected as logistics assistance coordinators because they get things done.
Like the Tracy firemen, the depots’ 1,300 civilian and eight military employees are battle-tested first responders and heroes of this disaster.