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Whitefish firefighters back on shift after fighting CA wildfires

Posted at 3:20 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 17:20:13-05

Wednesday marked the first day back on shift for Ben Fassnacht who was one of several firefighters dispatched to fight the devastating wildfires in California.

Fassnacht says California wildfires tend to be a lot more intense due to the types of fuel.

"There were 60 mile an hour wind gusts. The fine fuels were exceptionally dry. The RH's, the relative humidities were in the single digits, so they're pretty extreme fire conditions," he explained.

The firefighters were originally assigned to the Easy fire, but were quickly moved to the Maria Fire, which needed more attention.

"Initially we got assigned to the Easy Fire. As that was put out and contained, the Maria Fire," Fassnacht said.

According to California's Department of Forest and Fire Protection, both the Easy and Maria fires stretched over tens of thousands of acres.

Working 20 hour shifts, Fassnacht explained why the California wildfires can be extremely dangerous. "A lot of infrastructure, a lot of traffic. A lot of stuff that maybe in Montana you don't see."

He told MTN News it took the crew two straight days of driving in their truck to reach their destination and that traveling from the cold Montana air to warmer California has its challenges.

"You know, we filled our pump with anti freeze and kinda winterized everything. So, none of our equipment freezes and fails down there," said Fassnacht.

Before leaving for California, the families and rest of the Whitefish firehouse stepped up to the plate.

"The firefighters here at home were also committed to covering our shifts. You know everyone's pitching in a little bit more, when these dispatches happen," said Fassnacht.

Now that Fassnacht is home, he's fallen right back into his old routine at the firehouse.