As the Wine Country fires are reaching resolution, we salute the thousands of first responders who were there to evacuate us from our homes, save our loved ones and fight a historic chain of wildfires that will scar Northern California for ages.
Firefighters came from over 14 states, plus Australia and Canada. The influx from western states and beyond swelled firefighting ranks to around 5,312 strong from 351 agencies. The far-flung aid highlights the national significance of these blazes, which have wrought cataclysmic destruction, killed 42 people across Northern California and left tens of thousands homeless.
Local first responders took action while their homes and families were at danger. A total of 26 firefighters working in the greater Bay Area lost homes in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, including seven active duty Santa Rosa firefighters and five retirees, said Santa Rosa Firefighters union president Tim Aboudara.
At the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, 20 active duty and retired deputies and about 10 active and retired corrections officers lost homes, as well. Eight Santa Rosa police officers and one civilian technician, along with 16 retired employees, lost homes to the fires, according to the police officers association.
First responders put their lives on the line at great personal risk. Garrett Paiz, 38, a volunteer firefighter with the Noel Fire Department in southwest Missouri, died Monday, Oct. 16 while trying to negotiate winding Oakville Grade into Napa County in early morning darkness. His tanker, laden with water went off the road, broke through a guardrail and plunged about 20 feet into a ravine not far from the bottom of the grade and Highway 29, authorities said.
On Facebook, his brother Carlos Gabriel Paiz posted, “On behalf of our parents, we want you to know that our brother passed doing what he loved. He served others to the very end.”
Click through the gallery above honoring the first responders to Wine Country wildfires.