By Carolyn Barbre
Engineer Greg Simeral, with the Lindsay Fire Department, was picking up the phone at 562-2511, "Lindsay Police and Fire" during lunch on Wednesday, Nov. 5.
He and engineer David Hernandez and volunteer firefighter Lorenzo Layva took an engine down to San Diego's 280,000-plus-acre Cedar fire on Monday, Oct. 27 and returned on Sunday, Nov. 2. Intermittent rain and cooler weather helped firefighters complete a containment line, beginning on Friday, Oct. 31. Simeral said they worked 24-hour shifts, mainly in the Ramona area.
"There's not a lot to tell on our end. We never made it to the actual fire. The first day we did some structure protection and patrolled and mopped up hot spots along the highway and back in residential areas," he said. Simeral explained that structure protection is when there is an area where the threat of fire still exists. "In our case the fire threatened to come up a canyon," he said. Simeral said the engines in their strike team were deployed to different houses where firefighters cleared away brush and put hoses around the structures, "so that if fire did come up we would already be set to start defending it."
Simeral said that mopping up hot spots entailed stopping burning material that would roll down a hill from igniting other brush that hadn't burned. "Actually there was a mountain across the highway that had several mountaintop repeaters and television signal stations. We were assigned to keep the fire from crossing over the highway and we did." He said it was "a little bit of firefighting. We weren't involved in the real big hairy stuff, but we played an important role and were successful at it."
Their strike team consisted of the engine from Lindsay, one from Tulare, one from Selma, one from Orange Cove Fire Protection District and one from Fig Garden. "To the best of my knowledge it is the first time that a Lindsay engine has gone on a mutual aid or strike team assignment," Simeral said. He said Lindsay was not left unprotected, that one full-time engineer and two relief engineers covered for them. "Our first priority is that the city is covered at all times," he said regarding fire protection.
Simeral admitted it was a lot of work, but rewarding. "We got a lot of gratitude from the citizens down there, a lot of people honking horns and waiving and putting up signs. That felt good," he said.