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Fire on Callon: Today I Was a Firefighter
October 17, 2013 - By David Anson Russo
David Russo prefaced his e-mail to the Messenger, saying, This just happened. Im showering off the smoke, dirt and mud now.
PHOTO BY CATHERINE NATALIA ROCHÉ
Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter dropping water on a fire off Callon Drive on Sept. 30.
Fire is a very scary word around here. I have been in a fire before and its very dangerous; it can move fast, trap people, drop buildings and trees.
I went out to water my plants around noon when I saw my neighbor, Bill [Buerge], across the street running around, turning on the giant water sprinkler jets that are all over the property, expressly for the event of a canyon fire, which could sweep through the canyon and decimate everything. Very scary.
Bill is aware and ready and has spent a great deal of money and time to protect his property and the Canyon. He will even drain his pool if necessary. When he yelled, Fire, I moved fast and fell into the volunteer firefighter position ranks with other neighbors to battle the massive blaze that already took a house, a cottage YURT. It was starting to take a gazebo and eucalyptus trees, which because of their oil content, would be hard to battle at such high temperatures with everything so dry now.
PHOTO BY CATHERINE NATALIA ROCHÉ
By Catherine Natalia Roché
About 2:20 p.m. on Sept. 30, black smoke began to tower over Cheney and Callonneighborhood. My mother called 9-1-1. There were some explosions that sounded like pops. At times, we saw flames rise above the tree line. About 2:40 p.m. the emergency vehicles, and air support appeared. Several fire department helicopters dropped water. We watched it unfold from our balcony. I took some photos and videos. The Sheriff and L.A. County helicopters circled around. By 3 p.m., the fire was mostly put out and the smoke disappeared. There were two more water drops made by the fire department. I don't know how the fire started or what burned, but our neighbors were
very stressed and some evacuated.
If it spread, our entire community would be in jeopardy but, because my neighbor who owns the Mountain Mermaida magnificent hacienda estate and wildlife sanctuarywas prepared with the most advanced firefighting system around, he and we put it to use on the property next door.
With giant firefighting water sprinklers going off, six of us rolled out and linked together firefighting hoses, climbed over and broke through flaming fences and began battling the blaze. Embers were setting everything on fire far from the primary blaze so we had to work inward and cut a wet path through. As we were getting one part under control, a platoon of firefighters showed up in record time and took on the primary blaze.
A dozen first responder vehicles showed up, choppers were dropping water, firefighters were everywhere and totally getting it done spraying water and foam. Our team of neighbors with our smaller firefighting hoses, made a dent and got most of the blaze out around the primary fire, which was way too big for us to handle with just one 150-foot hose and several garden lines. By the time we were done, it was out, charred black house and belongings, smoking embers, wet, mud and foam everywhere.
We all did it and worked together on a moments notice to protect our neighborhood and canyon. I am proud of everyone who thought only of one thinghelping others. The entire neighborhood came out to help like it was the 1800s. That says a lot about our community.
Now, since this blindsided us, we will all get together soon and discuss a smart neighborhood plannot a city or canyon plan, but our neighborhood planto stop it here before it spreads if it should ever happen again. If we can have a plan and work together like a mini-volunteer fire teamuntil the first responders show upwe might be able to stop it, slow it, protect property and lives. Its just smart to know your neighbors and be able to talk shorthand in an emergency.
Today we were successful in the sense that everyone is alive and safe. This [the Cheney Callon area] is a horse, dog, peacocks, animal and wildlife community and we had no loss of life.
Still, someone lost everything today and tonight they are not sleeping in their own home and tomorrow they will have to figure it all out...but they will be alive to do so. We are blessed.
Everyone in the Canyon owes a huge round of applause for all the first responders and to Bill at the Mermaid, for being prepared. It was like having a little fire station available nearby and it worked beautifully.