15 Minutes: Heart-wrenching, uplifting times for visiting firefighter
June 29, 2007
Brian Paquette is a firefighter for the Sierra Fire Protection District. The district provides emergency services for Washoe County, Nev., through three full-time stations working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They arrived to help fight the Angora fire on June 24, the day the fire broke out. Paquette was interviewed on Friday.
Q: What organization do you work for?
A: Sierra Fire Protection District, Washoe County.
Q: How long have you been with the Sierra Fire Protection District?
A: One year.
Q: Whom did you work for before the Sierra Fire Protection District?
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A: I was a seasonal firefighter with the Nevada Division of Forestry.
Q: When were you called to the Angora fire?
A: Sunday afternoon, around 5 p.m.
Q: Can you compare the effort of fighting the Angora fire to any other wildfire efforts with which you’ve been involved?
A: Probably the size would compare to the Cedar fire, down in San Diego a couple of years ago. For the size, compared to the Cedar fire, was, I think, 250,000 acres, this is 3,000 – I think there was more manpower here. Obviously the area, the ecosystem, I’m sure they prioritized it.
Q: Can you describe the experience of living up here at the camp?
A: It’s been great; they’ve got everything really organized. I was up here in 2002, for the Gondola fire, so they’ve got everything pretty well organized (for the firefighters) up at Heavenly.
Q: Was there any point at which you though the fire might get out of control after the initial Sunday devastation?
A: Yeah, when we were pulling down 89 (on Tuesday) and we were staged there for a few minutes before we went into the homes. You couldn’t really see the head of the fire, but you could see this calm swirling. And down 89 they had a bunch of – they didn’t evacuate them yet, so everybody was just on the side of the road, and I just envisioned the fire blowing out of there and across the road and everybody just running all over the place – just mass chaos.
Q: What’s been the most heart-wrenching moment for you since you’ve been here?
A: Probably the residents who have lost their homes. I’ve seen some of them when they found out that their homes were lost.
Earlier this morning we had a group of kids come out to the camp here, and the Forest Service battalion chief he was showing them around the fire engines. And I guess three of them had lost their homes, and they were probably five or six years old, so they were pretty sad.
Q: What has been the most uplifting moment for you fighting the Angora fire?
A: Probably on Tuesday, when we had a little blow-up and we were called down there, our strike force team was called down there to protect structures. The way the fire was looking, I was sure we were going to lose some (structures), and we didn’t lose any. That was a nice feeling.
Q: When are you being sent home?
A: Today (Friday), they’re demobilizing us.
Q: Where do you live?
Q: Are you looking forward to going home?