SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- In the fire service, they view a day like this a lull in the middle.
The Glass Fire didn't inflict much local damage Wednesday, but firefighters worry that flames may return with hot, red flag weather and high winds Thursday.
"I think people are tired of saying, new normal. It's not new anymore," said Captain Rene Torres from Rancho Adobe Fire in Cotati. His rig and crew just finished 17 straight days on the Wallbridge Fire. On Wednesday, they committed to 14 more. They're already exhausted both physically and mentally.
"We get to see the bad side of things," said Torres. "Losing homes. Belongings. Recoveries of bodies. But that is part of the Fire Service," Torres said.
It is a toll measured in toil. As we approach the peak of fire season, CAL FIRE crews have entered their fourth year of this not so new normal. As of September 29, a total of 8,155 fires have burned 4,018,888 acres, already. Fighting them means weeks on the road, working long shifts in treacherous, uncomfortable conditions.
"Most of our employees have been here since Sunday night when the fire started," Captain Michael Alcocer said.
Alcocer was Santa Rosa's Firefighter of the Year in 2014. We caught up with him during a short break just off Highway 12 as he took advantage of a food truck donating lunch.
"How many square meals do you get out here?" we asked.
"Square? They're kind of round," he answered.
Alcocer and his crew have caught eight hours sleep in the last 48. They have red eyes and sunburns. Their faces are caked with dirt and ash. They have reached the breaking point that every firefighter remembers.
For the young ones and first-timers, It is a state of being that they either learn to deal with, or not.
"It is either a make or break moment for these people," said Alcocer. "They either stop, or else they keep doing it for the rest of their lives."
It is one more right of passage.
A crucible, or sorts.
The difference between saying you want to this career, and actually achieving it.
It is more than a trial by fire.
Call it a trial by fatigue.
App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Track wildfires across Bay Area with this interactive map
- What we know about the fires burning in the North Bay
- LIST: Wildfires prompt evacuation orders & warnings in Napa, Sonoma counties
- Track air quality levels impacted by smoke from wildfires
- Video shows smoke, flames in wine country as Glass Incident, other fires rage
- WATCH: Staggering footage shows lightning storm that started complex fires
- How to prepare for a wildfire evacuation
- Comparing the 10 biggest wildfires in California history
- Most destructive California wildfires in history
- Camp Fire is deadliest wildfire in California history
- How are wildfires started? A look at the causes of some of the worst in California history
- Safety tips to remember when returning home after wildfire
- How to prepare your pets in case of disaster
- The difference between containing and controlling a wildfire