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Sonoma County firefighters dispatched to California wildfires

More than 30 Sonoma County firefighters and emergency personnel are battling summer wildfires in distant California communities.

Most are part of a strike team en route Tuesday to the Garza fire lines in Kings County after a bruising two days defending homes outside Oroville, where the Wall fire has burned nearly ?6,000 acres, destroyed ?37 structures and sent thousands seeking safety. More than 7,000 firefighters are battling fires statewide, according to Cal Fire.

“It was busy. Very busy,” said Petaluma Fire Capt. Chad Costa, the strike team leader for 21 people staffing five local engines from the Rancho Adobe, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Forestville fire agencies, and Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority.

Nine other local firefighters from the Petaluma and Santa Rosa agencies have been dispatched to the 29,000-acre Alamo fire in San Luis Obispo County aboard engines owned by the California Office of Emergency Services.

Three paramedics, two from Petaluma Fire Department and one from Sonoma Valley Fire & Rescue Authority, also have been dispatched to the Wall fire, emergency officials said.

Costa, whose team left for Butte County around noon Saturday and worked through the night and all day Sunday before catching a few hours of sleep late that night, said he didn’t even know the name of the community he and his team were working in. They just followed directions to the neighborhood and started doing what they know how to do, he said.

It was nonstop work defending structures and trying to hold roads against encroaching flames - “mostly just bump and run,” Costa said.

At least 5,400 structures were threatened by the blaze, which started Friday afternoon, Cal Fire said. It was one of 14 major fires burning statewide.

Costa’s team was reassigned from the Wall fire Monday and sent to Coalinga, base camp for the 14,000-acre Garza fire, which was only 17 percent contained Tuesday morning. After a few hours sleep - their second shut-eye since Saturday morning - the crew was headed out to the front lines of the 2-day-old wildfire.

“We’re doing well, and tired, but everybody’s working hard and doing what we can,” an exhausted sounding Costa reported.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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