Rocklin firefighters fight Bagley wildfire

Two strike teams see action at three different California wildfires
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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By Jon Brines Placer Herald Correspondent It has taken an army of nearly 2,000 firefighters from around the state, including a team from Rocklin, to slow the 43,940-acre Bagley wildfire burning in Shasta County west of Big Bend. Rocklin strike team members Capt. Martin Holm, Capt. Tom Borghelli, Engineer Ryan Bowman and firefighter Chris Valenzuela returned last week from their 11-day attack of three wildfires, including the most recent in Shasta County. “We were assigned to mop up and hold the containment lines,” Borghelli said. “Most of our responsibility is taking some of the pressure off the local resources because there are so many fires going on up there.” The team of 17 was composed of firefighters from Rocklin, Auburn, Newcastle, Placer Hills and Roseville. “It turns in to being more of a family reunion when we go on these big fires. We get to see people we haven’t seen in months,” said assistant strike team leader and Rocklin Fire Department Capt. Mike Holm. The firefighters work in 24-hour shifts and their pay is reimbursed by the state. “We would stay up there in a local motel. Get a shower and a good night’s rest and then you’d be up and work another 24 hours,” Borghelli said. Holm, a 20-year fire veteran, enjoys getting the job done with hard work in 100-degree temperatures. “It’s something I was built to do,” Holm said. “It’s the fire, the people and being able to do what we can not only in our community, but also help other communities by putting out this fire.” Rocklin firefighters started on Aug. 12 working on steep terrain battling scorched Manzanita brush on the Wye Fire in Lake and Colusa Counties off Highway 20 east of Highway 53. “The Wye fire, it was more coarse soil, but there were was a lot of rocks that caused trouble as well,” Holm said. That fire was contained at 7,934 acres by Aug. 18. But the strike team’s work wasn’t done yet. They shifted over to the Mill Fire, which started Aug. 13 in Tehama County off Highway 32 northwest of Butte Meadows. “The Mill fire — there were some up on the top edges that had some slate that broke apart when you stepped on it,” Holm said. “Getting experience is really what keeps you going and those that don’t have it get it really quickly.” The Mill fire was contained at 1,641 acres by Aug. 23. The last stop for this team was the Bagley fire, which took all of their effort until it was time to return home on Aug. 23. Rocklin Battalion Chief John Shelton, Capt. Joe Siminski, Engineer Greg Stensler and firefighter Alton Tate are now working the stubborn Bagley fire, which was started by lightning strikes on Aug 18. Rocklin Fire Chief James Summers said he’s concerned this fire season will be even worse than last season “Usually we’re seeing these types of (large) fires in September and October and now we’re seeing it in August, which isn’t a good thing,” Summer said. “That means October is going to be bad unless we start getting some rain.” Even so, Rocklin’s commitment to mutual aid will mean more Rocklin firefighters will be called to tackle wildfires. “We have such a great group of dedicated people who are hard working. There are a lot of things we can do,” Summers said. ________ Rocklin Strike Team Help July: Robbers Fire in Foresthill August: Wye Fire in Lake & Colusa Counties; Mill Fire in Tehama County; Bagley Fire in Shasta County. Source: Rocklin Fire