Local firefighter returns home after battling wildfires in California for 2 weeks

Local firefighter returns home after battling wildfires in California for 2 weeks

LIGONIER, Pa. — As wildfires are raging out west, some of our local first responders here are leaving home to help fight them alongside hot shot crews.

“They just call you whenever and then less than 24 hours you’re on your way to whatever state that is,” said Second Lt. Josh Derek of the Ligonier Volunteer Hose Company #1.

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Derek said he was in the heart of the Woodward fire just outside of San Francisco, working 16 hours a day for two weeks.

It’s his second time to California and fourth trip out west to help fight untamed wildfires.

“When we got there, the fire was blowing up and chewing some ground, so we had to sit back and watch a little bit and we prepped line for a burn because it was going toward a town then a coastal fog rolled in,” Derek said.

So far, more than 2 million acres have burned across California.

Derek said where he was the wildfire was 0% contained when he got there, torching 2700 acres initially. When he left, 4800 acres were destroyed by flames.

Derek said the views and the work from the ground is surreal.

“I would say it’s really wild; like you just sit there watching something that can be burned over a mile in just a few seconds chewing up landscape,” Derek said.

Derek said that the Woodward fire was 95% contained when he left for home. We asked him if he would be willing to go back out if they called him again, and he said absolutely.

1,000 people trapped by Creek Fire near California’s Mammoth reservoir; at least 10 injured