March Field Fire Emergency Services received a call for mutual aid from Riverside County Fire Department just after 5 p.m. on Monday, September 25, 2017 to help with the quickly spreading Canyon Fire near the 91 Freeway in Corona, California. Within minutes Capt. Christopher Christianson, Engineers Jonathon Sandvig and Philip Quinn, and Firefighter Marco Sola, along with Incident Safety Officer Capt. Jeremy Gerrish, were on their way in Engine 9.
In a mutual aid call it may take a little extra time getting out because they have to take extra stuff with them, not knowing how long they will be out, Gerrish said.
“It may be four hours or four days. We get called out to a specific location, a golf course this time, then given an assignment,” Gerrish said.
They were assigned to Riverside County Strike Team XRI-6050-A and sent to Green River Golf Course, where as soon as they checked in there were given an immediate assignment into a Corona neighborhood, on San Ramon Dr., Gerrish said.
The work/rest cycle and whether they bed down in a fire camp or hotel depends on with whom they are going out. They may work 12 hours and rest 12 hours, or be put on a 24 on, 24 off cycle, he said.
“Sometimes (we work) 24 on and 24 on and we catch a couple of winks wherever we can.”
Sola, a firefighter since 2001, said this is his second mutual aid call, with the La Tuna Fire being the first. They were put to work quickly and were responsible for saving some homes.
“This one (we provided) much more structural protection (and) played a pretty major role,” Sola said. “Our truck was responsible for five homes. We had flames two feet from the fence line of those homes and were able to suppress them.”
Col. Shane Lohman, 452nd Air Mobility Wing vice commander, and his family were evacuated from their home, just steps from the base of the mountains where the fire came down.
Lohman was driving back to his home on Monday night and saw the smoke. Having evacuated because of fire twice before when they lived at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Lohman said he and his wife kept an eye on the fire, going outside to check every 30 minutes.
“The winds changed and I saw it peak over the crest and start coming down the hill,” Lohman said.
That’s when they gathered what was necessary and packed their cars to be ready in case the evacuation order came, he said. They also helped their neighbors prepare, many of whom had never experienced a fire evacuation. That neighborhood had not seen a fire for 20 years, he said.
“It was very stressful for them. There was a lot of adrenaline,” Lohman said. “We made sure all the neighbors were taken care of, and as we were driving down the street (evacuating) we saw 10 to 15 fire trucks passing us.”
The evacuation order for his neighborhood was lifted at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, he said.
“I want to thank all the first responders, firefighters, police, and especially March for protecting us, our neighborhood and keeping us safe,” Lohman said. “We want to thank the March firefighters for what they do every day.”
The March Strike Team ended their first shift Tuesday morning by knocking down fires at the freeway’s guard rails and extinguishing hot spots, Sola said. They remained at the fire Wednesday, performing mop-up duties and checking for hot spots and smoldering areas.
“We are pretty seasoned when it comes to periods of work,” Sola said. “We have a good crew and good leadership from Captains Christiansen and Gerrish, (as well as) good experience on the truck.”
With Fire Prevention Week coming up Oct. 8-14, Sola reminds everyone to be prepared.
“Make sure you have an action plan in place for evacuation, have supplies and a back-up plan of where you might stay, and clear the brush around your home, especially if you’ve received a notice from the fire department,” he said.