DOWNTOWN — As the nearly week-long Station fire continues to burn its way through the Angeles National Forest, scorching more than 105,000 acres and threatening a half-dozen communities, a group of local firefighters and volunteers are joining the battle.
The Santa Monica Fire Department on Saturday deployed a team of seven fire safety personnel, including a battalion chief, to the Station fire as part of the Big Tujunga Attack Force, providing structural protection to affected homes in the area.
It’s the second such team of firefighters to deploy to a wildfire since Thursday when a group was sent to assist in emergency efforts at the Rancho Palos Verdes blaze, which has since been fully contained.
A call for more personnel to aid at the Yucaipa Fire in San Bernardino County was denied.
“We can’t deplete our resources,” SMFD Capt. Brad Graham said. “We are pretty much tapped with personnel working (in Santa Monica) or deployed to the fires.”
Some of the firefighters who have remained in Santa Monica just recently battled an early morning blaze at an apartment building in the Pico Neighborhood on Saturday.
The Station fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 26 and is about 5 percent contained as of early Monday evening. More than a dozen homes have been destroyed and another 12,000 are threatened. Two firefighters — 47-year-old L.A. County Fire Capt. Tedmund D. Hall and 34-year-old firefighter Arnaldo Quinones — were both killed on Sunday when their emergency response vehicle went off the side of a canyon and fell 800 feet during fire suppression activities.
All Santa Monica firefighters are required to go through a wildfire training course, which differs from structure fires that they would encounter in the city because of Mother Nature.
“We’re pretty much at her will and if the wind kicks up, it’s (problematic), not to mention the changing topography,” Graham said.
The firefighters take a refresher course about twice a year, the most recent of which was conducted last week.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross was also expected to send a team of 10 volunteers to the Station fire on Monday afternoon, approximately four of which are with AmeriCorps.
Some of the volunteers will be placed at the emergency shelters set up for evacuees while others will be assigned to hydration stations. All will be working eight-hour shifts.
“They are all geared up and ready to go,” John Pacheco, the director of the American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, said.
Volunteers are required to undergo various training before they are ready to be deployed, including a basic introduction to disaster response. There are about 200 different courses available covering topics from mass care to first aid but volunteers are only required to take a minimum of 24 hours, Pacheco said.
The chapter has about 150 fully trained volunteers.
Blaze knocks out apartment unit
Five people are without homes after a fire took out a series of units in an apartment complex at 1943 20th St.
The fire broke out at 5:12 a.m. on Saturday in a detached structure that is part of a two-story courtyard style apartment complex, destroying one unit and damaging three others. The cause of the fire has not been determined but is believed to be electrical in nature, Graham said.
A pair of occupants were treated for smoke inhalation on the scene, one of whom was transported to a nearby hospital for further attention. A firefighter suffered minor burns to his knee.
The tenants of the three units that suffered moderate to mild smoke damage have been allowed into their apartments to retrieve their belongings but are not allowed to return full-time yet.
The American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter is providing temporary housing for the fire victims at two local motels until today. They have also received debit cards to cover the costs of food, clothing, medications and other expenses. A tenant whose unit suffered extensive smoke and water damage, losing all contents in his apartment, received a $180 debit card.
The organization is expected to reassess the fire victims’ needs to see if they require further assistance.