Gilroy fire basecamp pivotal in fight

May 23, 2008 7:07:25 PM PDT
1,100 firefighters are now on the lines in Santa Cruz County. They've come from all over Northern California to fight the flames. When those firefighters roll off the fire lines, they arrive at a command post that resembles a small city at Christmas Hill Park.

With many fires, you often hear that a monumental task was accomplished overnight. In this case, it happened even faster when it took only 10 hours and eight semi-trucks of equipmentto transform Christmas Hill Park into a Cal Fire base camp. When firefighters roll off the fire lines, they arrive at a command post that resembles a small city .

"It's pretty amazing. They really don't prepare you enough to tell you 'hey, this is what it's going to be like.' It's pretty big," says Steve Wuerthner, a Fremont firefighter.

The size of the base camp is only matched by its efficiency. There's a place for everything and everything has its place such as equipment, food and showers. There's even a one stop shop for firefighting supplies.

"They come in, they bring their old stuff, and we give them new stuff. Whatever they need," says one camp worker.

This Governor is the one who sets the wheels in motion. He knew the summit fire demanded a massive and immediate response.

"I'm very proud that we deployed Cal Fire strike teams and moved equipment into the area as soon as possible," says Governor Schwarzenegger.

However, it's Tony Blase who is star behind the scenes. He is the emergency services manager for Cobalt Equipment out of Pleasanton.

"If you just give me a piece of real estate, I'll turn it into the city you need for operations," says Blase.

This Gilroy site is transformed even more quickly than most. There's a blueprint in place from fires past.

"Yeah, it's kind of a flashback from the Croy fire. It's just that we're just burning the other side of the mountains, says Fremont Battalion Chief Greg Dillingham.

For firefighters coming off the mountain, the base camp offers at least some of the comforts of home.

"It's a site for sore eyes. We've been up there for almost 24 hours. It was hot during the day and windy," says Captain Gary Ashley of the Fremont Fire Department.

"Everybody is extremely tired right now and people just want to eat and get some rest," Redwood City Firefighter Blake Washington.

Today, that food and rest was interrupted briefly by a visit from the Governor, who passed along his personal thanks for a job well done.

Aside from the occasional nap, firefighters sleep in local area motels.


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