THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- It’ll be hours before dozens of firefighters from Western Washington finish their first shift battling the fast-moving wildfires in California.
Dave McDaniel, a Battalion Chief for Eastside Fire & Rescue, is leading one of two strike teams that consist of nearly 40 firefighters from fire departments in King County.
His team arrived in southern California on Sunday. They'll work for 24 hours followed by 24 hours of rest. Then the cycle repeats.
McDaniel took a brief break from patrolling neighborhoods in Thousand Oaks, California, on Monday night to talk with KOMO News about his team's first few hours on the job.
"Right behind me is where the fire came down the hill and then it burned down to several of the houses that are right here," he told KOMO News. "There’s an area where we drove up to today where it just burned through everything. I mean – there’s nothing left."
His team spent Monday night looking out for hot spots. They want to make sure areas that have already burned don’t flare back up.
Their first shift began at 7 A.M. Monday.
They won’t be done until 7 A.M. Tuesday.
"The drive we took a couple hours ago, you go over the ridge top and everything is just – I mean it’s like a nuclear bomb went off. I mean there’s absolutely nothing left standing. And it’s very, very hard to comprehend," McDaniel said. "When you drive through it, you just can’t believe that the fire can be that devastating. I mean – it burned through so fast and everything."
At times, the Santa Ana winds have really kicked up, McDaniel said.
He and his crew went to California to help in whatever way they can from protecting homes to building fire lines.
Their assignments can change with little notice.
"Preparing for it – it’s just a much larger scale of devastation than what we see up there in Washington," he said.
McDaniel has been on out-of-state missions before.
Some of the firefighters with him have not.
Right now, the plan is for them to stay in California for up to two weeks.