Members of the Murrieta Fire Department have been helping fight a rash of fires across the state during the last two weeks, starting with the Aug. 1 fire near La Cresta and most recently,
"Last week we had 11 personnel from our department assigned as state resources helping manage these fires throughout the state," said Murrieta fire Chief Matt Shobert.
Following containment of the Volcano fire, Murrieta firefighters were called up to provide mutual aid to Cal Fire for the and the 900-acre near Warner Springs.
From there, two engine crews consisting of four personnel each were assigned to the Jawbone Complex fire that has burned more than 12,000 acres near Tehachapi in Central California. Having just returned Wednesday, one of the crews went directly to the Buck fire, Shobert said.
"This is shaping up to be one of our worst fire seasons in years. The scary part of it is we are still in the early stages; we are looking at another couple months of serious fire weather and serious fire activity."
Once Murrieta firefighters are assigned to the system they get sent where the next need is, he explained.
"When we send the firefighters out to these incidents, it is part of state inter-agency cooperative agreements where no local jurisdiction can function alone without support form their neighbors throughout the state," Shobert said.
Though the firefighters are often working 24-hour shifts on little sleep while catching naps on dirt in hot weather and spending up to two weeks away from their families, Shobert said there are many benefits.
The is reimbursed for their service as well for overtime pay for those who cover extra shifts in the city during their absence.
"We do not decrease staffing when we send these folks out, but it does create an overtime situation in the city," Shobert said.
The Fire Department also receives administrative fees for keeping and submitting reimbursement requests for the affected time periods, he said.
"There is no expense to the Murrieta taxpayer. We get fully reimbursed for all expenses: food, lodging, travel, salary—all that is factored in and we are fully reimbursed for our assistance on these fires," Shobert said.
Additionally, crews have the opportunity to strengthen their firefighting skills, he said.
Yet others from the Murrieta Fire Department have been assigned to fulfill different posts as part of the recent California wildfires, he said.
Engineer/firefighter Matt Corelli was assigned to a fire in Redding in Northern California as a public information officer, while Battalion Chief Steve Kean worked on the same fire as part of a management team. Capt. Evan Tiss did management oversight for the Jawbone Complex fire, he said.
"They get experience in dealing with large-scale incidents," Shobert said. "They get educated in the process and bring that information back with them; we get fully reimbursed, and we don’t skip a beat of service. It's a win-win."