Local Fireman Helps Out at Rough Fire

Fire stations around the West routinely loan out their personnel when a major wildfire overwhelms a region’s local resources. Sometimes, however, there is a need for someone not so much to fight the fire, but to attend to those who are.
That’s the function Brian Campbell of the San Marino Fire Department served during a just-completed three-week deployment at the Rough Fire, which had ravaged 138,000 acres in the Sierra and Sequoia national forests and Kings Canyon National Park by the start of this week.
Campbell, who, like all of the SMFD’s firefighters, doubles as a paramedic, was on the fire line to provide medical treatment to any of the firefighters who needed treatment for an injury or other malady.
“The program originated a few years back because there was a person who got injured while cutting a tree down,” Campbell said. “It crushed his leg and he was bleeding pretty severely. But there was no one to provide care. Up there in the wilderness it can take upwards of an hour to get a person out of there. If there’s no one to provide care for them while they’re there, then their chances of surviving a severe injury get less and less.”
In addition to injuries, the paramedics must be alert to the physical condition of the people fighting the fire, too.
“If they’re getting dehydrated and they don’t know it yet, they’re stumbling around, then you’ll stop them and assess them and make sure they’re doing OK,” Campbell said.
The most common problem he encountered? Bee stings.
Sometimes the division he was assigned to would be working in an area that the fire was headed toward, clearing brush with chainsaws and cutting trees back to reduce the fuel. In the noise and commotion, the firefighters often wouldn’t notice that they’d disturbed a hive until it was too late. In one such situation, Campbell said, every person in the crew was stung a couple of times, despite having little exposed skin.
His regimen was an arduous one: 12 hour shifts that routinely expanded to 14 or 16 hours, followed by a return to base camp for a shower, some food and a few hours’ sleep. And then right back at it again.
For 21 days straight?
“Yes,” Campbell said. “You don’t get weekends up there.”

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