The El Segundo Fire Department will get a lot of new equipment later this year, thanks to Chevron — and the federal government.
A new fire engine, a utility truck, radios and a new set of firefighting gear, among other items, are coming the department’s way, because of a federal settlement over allegations the Chevron Corporation violated the Clean Air Act. The settlement, finalized last year, required Chevron to make a $250,000 contribution to El Segundo, and the company added another $900,000, which the South Bay city accepted in December.
The Manhattan Beach Fire Department has also accepted a utility truck and various other emergency response equipment, including new breathing apparatus, valued at $1.18 million from Chevron.
The settlement also requires the oil company to make safety improvements at all of its domestic refineries.
“This case demonstrates the importance of performing equipment inspections and maintenance in accordance with environmental regulations,” Susan Bodine, the assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement in October, when the settlement was announced. “Under this settlement Chevron, U.S.A Inc. will improve their safety systems and monitoring equipment, protecting their employees and the surrounding communities.”
An August 2012 fire at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, California, spurred the EPA’s initial inquiry.
In 2013, there was an explosion at a Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which led to the death of an employee. That same year, the El Segundo refinery had a rupture that led to a power outage and flaring, and spurred a visit from federal investigators.
In the final settlement — between Chevron, the EPA, the Justice Department and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality — the oil company agreed to spend roughly $150 million to replace vulnerable pipes, upgrade alarms and take various other steps to improve safety at all its domestic refineries. The company also agreed to spend $10 million in communities surrounding refineries in California, Mississippi, Utah and Hawaii, and pay $2.95 million in civil penalties.
The goal of the repairs is to prevent accidental releases of hazardous chemicals.
For El Segundo, the settlement will provide a boost.
“The timing with Chevron’s offer was perfect,” said Fire Chief Chris Donovan, who explained the city was due to start looking for a new fire engine in the coming year. “We are in essence saving funds that would have otherwise come out of the general fund and we’re able to get our goals met sooner.”
The new engine should arrive later this year or the beginning of 2020.
The department will also use the Chevron money to purchase 45 sets of “turn-out gear,” the yellow suits firefighters wear, affording every member with two sets, something Donovan said was already a priority.
Since the 2017 fire, El Segundo has instituted reforms in how it tells the public about emergencies. It now utilizes social media and issues Nixle alerts — a system of emergency text messages — more frequently.
“We feel we have a good working relationship with Chevron,” said City Manager Greg Carpenter. “They work closely with our emergency response teams. We train and practice together. We do our best to be prepared.”
El Segundo has also worked to conform with Assembly Bill 1646, sponsored by South Bay Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, which took effect Jan. 1, and requires a local alert and notification system in coordination with other agencies.
“There is,” Donovan said, “considerable effort underway currently to improve the method and speed at which we communicate with the community.”
When dispatchers radioed St. Charles emergency services to tell them that a man was stranded in the catwalks beneath the Blanchette Bridge that carries Interstate 70 over the Missouri River, scanner hobbyist Shawn Willis heard the radio transmission the moment it crackled across the airwaves. Never mind that he was in the shower. A radio was on his bathroom counter, and he was tuned in, as he usually is several hours every day.
While Willis dried off, dressed and headed to the scene of the Oct. 23 incident, fellow enthusiast Richard Survant continuously posted details to the St. Charles County Scanner Traffic account on Twitter, SCC Scanner Traffic, as he heard them. As firefighters orchestrated a high-angle rescue, Survant and Willis heard the drama unfold in real time and relayed details to their many followers on social media.
“Pattonville Fire 4835 is on the catwalk on the bridge,” SCC Scanner Traffic tweeted. “St. Charles City Fire 9420 has spoken with the person. No injuries reported by the patient.”
The string of tweets continued until rescuers transmitted that they had figured out how to rescue the stranded man.
‘It progressed very fast’
Willis runs the St. Charles County Missouri Scanner Traffic page on Facebook, where he fills in 80,000 followers on the details of unfolding emergencies such as car accidents and house fires. He created the page and now runs it with the help of Survant and Jeff Summers, another scanner hobbyist. They operate the Twitter account, and a couple of years ago they started a Facebook and Twitter account for St. Louis County scanner traffic.
“I started (the St. Charles County page) in 2012 just as a hobby for myself,” Willis said. “At first it was pretty much to allow my friends to know what was going on because they knew I was always listening to police scanners, so they were like ‘Hey, what’s going on here, Shawn, what’s going on here?’ … A week later I had over 1,000 followers. I don’t know 1,000 people. It just progressed very fast, and over time it’s turned into a second full-time job.”
The trio also use the Facebook page to share safety tips and other announcements from law enforcement and firefighting agencies. Their posts, both scanner-related and not, often receive dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of reactions and spur conversations in the comments section.
“There’s been times when we’ve gotten messages from police officers as well as the general public where when we posted about (a stolen car), and then they’re able to recover the stolen vehicle,” Willis said.
There’s a learning curve for listening to scanners. Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement use radios to convey important information to each other about crashes, fires, medical emergencies and crimes in progress, but they don’t all use the same radio lingo. Some agencies use plain language, others use numbered codes. Some agencies such as the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department have encrypted their radio transmissions so they can’t be heard at all.
Willis works for an HVAC company, but when he’s not at work, he’s often listening to scanners — from the moment he gets into his car to head home until he goes to sleep, five or six hours a day. He went through an EMT program and once aspired to be a firefighter.
In addition to running the scanner page, he volunteers to take photos for a couple of St. Charles County fire protection districts.
“It’s all about (public relations), which is why we have such a good relationship with the fire districts,” Willis said. “We help them out as much as we can. That’s what the page is built around is fire and EMS and law enforcement. Any chance I get to buy a police officer his item he’s buying at QuikTrip, I do.”
Listening to scanners also takes patience. For every thrilling rescue or nail-biting car chase that comes through the scanner, there are many more small fires and minor medical calls that regular listeners don’t find worthy of a tweet or post.
“It’s a lot like fishing,” said David Walters, who operates the Scanner News STL Twitter account. “You can go at it a long time and get absolutely nothing.”
Walters has been running his St. Louis-area Twitter account only since 2016 and his Facebook account since 2017, but his hobby harks back to the ’90s when he did live radio reports on traffic.
Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on scanners, Walters listens to transmissions through websites that provide scanner feeds for free. (Broadcastify provides live feeds of scanner transmissions with the help of scanner hobbyists.) Walters switches on six or seven channels at a time and follows major emergencies through the chatter with a discerning ear, posting updates to his pages in the broadcast writing style he learned while working for a radio station.
“Report a larceny just occurred at the Dollar General, 10 Fee Fee Road near Midland,” a December tweet from Scanner News STL reads. “Female suspect (reportedly wearing a tan coat with fur) allegedly fled the scene in a gold in color minivan with a male subject. Vehicle was last reportedly seen northbound on Fee Fee.”
“I just like it,” said Walters, who lives in unincorporated St. Louis County. “I’m a naturally curious guy, and I’ve always been interested in local stuff.”
His family is supportive of his hobby, he said, and he and his son sometimes visit fire stations in Jefferson and St. Louis counties.
“I went to almost every firehouse and got to meet these guys in person, and almost every time they invited us in and gave us a tour. They’ll sit in the firetruck and explain what they do, and they’re professional and they’re nice and they know what they’re doing. And obviously (I admire) their bravery and courage. On the scanner, you can hear some really scary stuff.”
On the Illinois side, Chris Rhodes has been running a Madison County-centric Facebook page since 2015. Rhodes has a scanner on both floors of his East Alton home and one in his car. He said he grew up around scanners because his father was a firefighter for 14 years. He is also a volunteer firefighter for Bethalto.
“I got laid off from my job and I was looking for something to do to pass the time, and I saw the St. Charles County page was doing pretty good,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t have one in Madison County. I was hoping to get 300 or 400 followers, and now it’s at 30,000.”
When it comes to scanner social media pages run by hobbyists, opinions from actual first responders vary. St. Louis Fire Department Capt. Garon Mosby said he was “not supportive” because audiences couldn’t know how proficient a hobbyist is at understanding what firefighters and paramedics are talking about on the radio waves. He encouraged people to follow the fire department’s official social media accounts to stay informed.
“We work very hard to build trust,” Mosby said, “We want people to seek a reputable source of information, and when emergencies break out, the fire chief sometimes has to clean up misinformation.”
Wentzville Fire Chief John Schneider took a different tone, saying he’s gotten to know Willis over the years and has seen the posts of the St. Charles County scanner Facebook page.
“They’ve done a really nice job of communicating the traffic that goes on the radio and turning around and putting it on social media for the public,” Schneider said. “That’s where they fit in … they’ve done a tremendous service to residents on (conveying) traffic conditions.”
Willis said he was thoughtful about anything he posts on Facebook. He knows it has a wide reach, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize police operations while they’re happening by making certain things public.
The growing audience of their social media offerings has even brought the scanner guys a measure of local fame. During an interview with the Post-Dispatch, Willis was approached by a star-struck woman who saw his shirt with a St. Charles County Scanner Traffic logo emblazoned on it.
“I’m super intrigued you run the scanner page because I follow it like crazy,” she said. “It’s like meeting a celebrity right now.”
The Los Angeles Fire Department is set to introduce a fifth Leonardo AW139 intermediate, twin-engine helicopter into its fleet. The aircraft is expected to be delivered from Leonardo’s Philadelphia facility in Spring 2019 and will be used to perform a range of missions like fire suppression, emergency medical service (EMS) and search and rescue (SAR).
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) protects more than four million people in America’s second largest city. It is responsible for more than 400 square miles, 106 stations, and over 3,200 firefighters. LAFD Air Operations’ mission includes fire suppression, air ambulance transport, hoist rescues, reconnaissance and mapping. Its helicopter fleet is housed at Van Nuys Airport (KVNY).
The existing fleet of four LAFD-owned AW139s combined have logged more than 7,000 flight hours since the first helicopter entered service in 2008, responding to more than 700 incidents annually. Leonardo explains these AW139s have been crucial for suppressing wildfires throughout Southern California. Features customized for the LAFD AW139 include, among others, search light, rescue hoist, advanced water tank for fire suppression, wire-cutter and modular cabin interior.
More than 270 customers from some 70 nations have ordered over 1,100 AW139s, used for roles like government and public utility, EMS, SAR, patrol, homeland security and transport duties. More than 900 AW139s have been delivered worldwide to date and have logged in excess of two million flight hours.
Posted inNews|Taggedfire, lafd|Comments Off on LA City Fire Adding Fifth AW139
Scanning enthusiast Alan Henney at his home in Takoma Park, Md. (Terrence McCoy/The Washington Post)
In a white house on a quiet, leafy street in Takoma Park, Md., lives a man who listens to nothing but mayhem. He is remarkable not because of his appearance — tall, thin, black hair — but for what he has around him at all times: scanners.
On this day, the scanners of Alan Henney — whose tweets of bedlam are followed by dozens of Washington journalists — were going full blast. Eleven cluttered his coffee table and living room, all tuned to different radio frequencies from across the region. There was the chirp of D.C. Fire and EMS responders. The prattle of dispatch in Prince George’s County. And the broadcast of Montgomery County officials telling of a traffic accident, which, Henney concluded solemnly, “doesn’t sound very good.”
Something else that didn’t sound very good: the garbled noise coming from one scanner, obscuring D.C. police chatter. To Henney it sounded like death — not the death caused by crime or traffic accidents, but the demise of a passion.
Across the United States, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people like Henney who listen to official communications on radio signals, sifting through a morass of chatter for interesting news. Some pester crime reporters with tips. Others, such as Henney, showcase the hard-won news items — like gem hunters would a stone — on their social media feeds. But soon, Henney fears, all of that may end. And what will become of the scanner enthusiasts when there’s nothing left to scan?
Over the past few years, an increasing number of municipalities and police departments, including the District’s, have begun encrypting their radioed communications, a trend driven in part by fear that bad guys and terrorists need to do little more nowadays than download a police-scanning app to get all the intelligence they need on what police are doing and where. Just this year, police in Las Vegas, Richmond and Knoxville, Tenn., have encrypted their radio communication.
But what police are calling a public safety measure, scanner hobbyists are describing as a blow to transparency. Now they’re asking plaintive questions about whether it portends the end of a pastime once incubated in science clubs and Scout groups.
“Who’s to blame? Who caused it? . . . What’s the future?” despaired one enthusiast in a YouTube video shot amid his scanners and wires.
“Is our hobby dying?” lamented a chat thread on RadioReference.com.
“The easy days of scanning are gone,” prophesied a post on eHam.net.
In the D.C. region, the keeper of the scanners’ code, and a source of stability in these turbulent scanning times, is Henney — director of the Capitol Hill Monitors group, publisher of the Capitol Hill Monitor periodical and author of the 534-page Washington-Baltimore Scanner Almanac. He spends his days at home now, tending to his ailing 87-year-old mother, planning annual regional scanner gatherings, listening to the channels he still gets and tweeting updates in the staccato voice of a just-the-facts-ma’am newsman. Meanwhile, he apportions blame for the possible collapse of his obsession.
High up on the list: Radio Shack.
There was a time when Henney was getting started — just a boy and his scanner, given to him by his father as a birthday gift — that Radio Shack was a haven for enthusiasts like him. But then the company pivoted from the radio to other electronics — and the sense of disillusionment in the scanning community was great indeed.
“Abandoned,” Henney mourned. “Many of us felt abandoned by Radio Shack.”
It was only the beginning. Police and other public safety agencies started switching to a more complicated trunked radio system, requiring the purchase of additional equipment and sending the expense of the hobby soaring. Then came the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and, with it, increased concern over securing communications. More recently has arrived a new generation of Americans who are less enamored of the radio waves, preferring social media and newer technologies.
“I’m not saying enthusiasts my age do not exist,” said Kenny Lorber, 27, who also volunteers with the Montgomery County Park Police. “But they are definitely dwindling.”
So, too, are the number of people going to Henney’s annual scanning meetings, plunging from a height of about 50 people in the 1990s to fewer than half that number these days. Even longtime scanning buffs have started dropping out.
“In November, I turned 80 years old,” said Willard Hardman, who wrote the scanning almanac with Henney. To him, scanning is no longer “cost-effective.”
“As a result,” he said, “I sold or gave away my equipment and left the hobby.”
Those who have left, and those who aren’t willing to take up the avocation in the first place, are missing out on what scanning buffs describe as an unfiltered, fully texturized reality — undiluted by information gatekeepers such as journalists and spokesmen.
“This radio traffic really gives you the pulse of the city and makes you realize how many stories are not being told,” said Luke Berndt, who got into this when he was living near the Adams Morgan fire station and his daughter kept wondering where the trucks were going. The answer, it often seemed, was to tend to an overdose. This was an event, he learned, that occurred thousands of times every year in the District but was rarely reported.
This plumbing of a city’s underside, accessing knowledge few have — all of it mingles to yield an intoxicating feeling that has kept Henney, who supports himself with rental properties in Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach, coming back for more.
He now stood for lunch. He buckled one scanner onto his belt. Then he put on a black vest with big cargo pockets. Into each, he fitted a scanner. He started for the door wearing five or six scanners and got into a car fitted with two extra radio antennas and equipped with a catalogue of radio channels.
“What if something big happens and I miss it? I don’t like to miss stuff,” he said by way of explanation as he drove to Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma Park restaurant. There, he set up shop at a side table, arraying his scanners before him. Sometimes people look at him a little funny, but he rarely pays attention. His focus is on the news that could happen at any moment.
So far that day, there had been only one bit of news that he said “rises to the level of a tweet.”
It hadn’t been big. Just an all-terrain vehicle crash near Camp Springs, Md., with “serious but hopefully [nonlethal] injuries for the ATV rider,” as he’d reported. But it had been big enough: Enough for the public to know. Enough to distract him from the feeling that one day he may not have any more news to share.
Back at his house an hour later, he saw no one had followed up on his tip. But maybe someone would with the next one.
Los Angeles firefighters put out hot spots Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, at the scene of a large fire that broke out at a strip mall on the 12700 block of San Fernando Road in Sylmar. (Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)
Firefighters Monday extinguished a greater-alarm blaze that damaged part of an L-shaped strip mall in Sylmar, and no one was hurt.
The fire was reported December 10th at 3:47 a.m. at 12777 San Fernando Road and extinguished in about two hours and 50 minutes, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Firefighters were forced out of the interior and off of the roof on one section of the building because the structural integrity of the roof over the unit where the fire burned was poor, and a section of the roof eventually collapsed, the LAFD reported.
More than 100 firefighters were assigned to the blaze. The majority of the businesses were saved, LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. A damage estimate was not immediately available.
Reporter Shane Newell listens to the ERICA radio at the Desert Sun newsroom’s breaking news desk, Wednesday, December 5, 2018. (Photo: Zoë Meyers/The Desert Sun)
The governmental body behind the police radio system covering five law enforcement agencies in the Coachella Valley says it has decided to limit the radio system to law enforcement personnel, a move that would cut off access to local journalists.
The Eastern Riverside County Interoperable Communications Authority, or ERICA, which operates the encrypted radio channels used by local police in Beaumont, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indio and Palm Springs, said the policy change is necessary in order to comply with laws protecting privacy and safety.
But local news outlets say the move will do the opposite, endangering the public by hampering media coverage of disasters like earthquakes or active shooters.
Since it launched in 2010, ERICA has allowed The Desert Sun, KESQ, KMIR and City News Service to listen to its radio system, which is not available to the general public. In November, ERICA alerted the four news outlets it had decided to revoke their access to the broadcasts.
The radio at KESQ went silent shortly thereafter. Radios at The Desert Sun and KMIR continue to broadcast.
Chief Travis Walker of Cathedral City, who serves as chairman of the ERICA Technical Advisory Committee, said the agency decided to confine ERICA communications to law enforcement after legal counsel warned that allowing media access risked releasing protected information like warrants and medical history to people unauthorized by law to hear it.
“If I pulled you over and ran your driver’s license, I get information that is deemed classified,” Walker said, “and the only people that can hear that information are people that have a right to know and a need to know,” like the police.
He said the goal is to safeguard the privacy rights of violent crime victims and minors as well as the safety of officers.
Walker said ERICA risked “significant fines, penalties and even criminal liability” by allowing the media access to the radio communications, including that the Department of Justice could pull the police department’s access to the California Law Enforcement Communications System, or CLETS. CLETS is the computer network law enforcement agencies in California use to access shared databases like vehicle registration records and criminal histories. He said the agency “received a very terse scolding from DOJ” regarding access to encrypted radios.
Law enforcement officers use radios to communicate about incidents like crimes, traffic accidents and disasters. In recent years, some police have encrypted the channels to prevent criminals from eavesdropping on their conversations and to preserve private information disclosed on the radios, like medical conditions. Other agencies, even some that have chosen to encrypt their channels to the general public, have still allowed the media to listen to their broadcasts in real time or with a one-hour time delay.
Adam Scott Wandt, an assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said law enforcement agencies must balance the imperative to protect officers, crime victims and the general public with the need to be “open and transparent.”
“I can think of very little reason to keep the legitimate media out of law enforcement communications,” he said.
ERICA’s policy reversal comes two months after the entity sent the four media outlets privy to its radio broadcasts a new user agreement. The agreement would have established “rules of engagement” for members of the media responding to breaking news scenes and would have barred the outlets from publishing information from ERICA broadcasts unless they obtained the broadcast through a record request or received written verification from ERICA.
With the exception of City News Service, a wire service whose news updates are published by subscribers like The Desert Sun, leaders of the four local news organizations did not sign the agreement, believing it to be overly restrictive.
The organizations argued that constraining – or blocking – media access to the ERICA system could impede the speedy dissemination of information about local hazards.
“The big issue here is not about the media, or what we can get, per se, or how we’ve been treated,” said Doug Faigin, president of City News Service. “The real issue is about safety to people in the Coachella Valley.”
Desert Sun Executive Editor Julie Makinen said in an email that even if media outlets can obtain ERICA communications with a records request, the process could stop urgent reporting about a developing situation.
“Access to real-time information serves the immediate public interest, so that media may report on a situation that is a grave threat to public safety – for example, a rapidly moving wildfire, a terrorist attack, or an airplane crash … by advising the public of law-enforcement activity in a certain area and advising the audience to stay away from a location,” she said. “We believe that in fact that media awareness of such information in real time can advance and assist the work of emergency personnel, rather than impede it.”
BURBANK, CA — A passenger plane conducted an emergency landing and slid off the rain-soaked runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport Thursday morning, according to reports.
The Southwest Airlines Flight 278 came to rest just off the runway, CBSLA reported Thursday morning. It rolled off the end of Runway 8 while landing at Hollywood Burbank Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. No injuries were immediately reported, according to airport officials. The plane was stopped by the Engineered Material Arresting System, designed to stop an aircraft that goes off the end of a runway.
In the wake of that 9 a.m. emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration has implemented a “groundstop” for Burbank for flights departing from airports within about a three-hour flying distance of Burbank. Aircraft are continuing to depart from Burbank, however, according to the FAA. Passengers should contact their airline for flight status. They can also monitor airport status via the website www.fly.faa.gov/ois.
Alex Villanueva was sworn in as Los Angeles County’s new sheriff Monday, echoing his campaign vow to “reform, rebuild and restore” the department while saying the agency would not be influenced by “divisive policies” from outside the county and state.
This city and our entire county is standing at a crossroads,” Villanueva told the crowd gathered for his swearing-in ceremony at East Los Angeles College. “We can either decide to go along to get along or to challenge a status quo that has only worked for a select few and left far too many behind. The people of Los Angeles have decided that we’re going to make real and new vision for what law enforcement in our community should do and look like.”
Villanueva, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant defeated incumbent Jim McDonnell in the Nov. 6 election. McDonnell, the first sitting sheriff to lose a re-election bid in Los Angeles County in more than a century, did not concede defeat until Nov. 26, when vote-counting showed Villanueva with an insurmountable lead.
Villanueva has already made headlines even before taking office. He announced plans last week to follow through on a campaign promise to clean house at the department by dismissing a series of people in the agency’s leadership structure.
Among those being relieved of duty are Undersheriff Jacques La Berge, four assistant sheriffs, eight chiefs, a communications director and a community outreach director, Danny Leserman, a spokesman for Villanueva, told the Los Angeles Times. The department’s two constitutional policing advisers will be transferred to new jobs with Los Angeles County and will be replaced, he said.
In his speech Monday, Villanueva called his win the culmination of a career of “speaking truth to power.”
“This is a rare moment in history where we not only have the opportunity but the courage and responsibility to challenge an existing power to ensure that no matter where you are from, where you live, how you pray, the color of your skin — your sheriff’s department will work to protect you and keep you safe.”
He also hinted at his campaign theme of not allowing immigration agents into county jails and his support of the state’s “sanctuary” law, saying, “We will not allow any divisive policies from outside Los Angeles or California dictate the way we do our job here in California. Hard-working immigrant families shouldn’t have to wonder if we’re here to protect them or deport them.”
To the members of the department gathered at the ceremony, Villanueva said, “I only ask that you serve your community with dignity and pride.”
“Treat everyone with respect and the success of your career will be determined by how well you serve the community, not the political powers to be,” he said. “Those days are over.”
He thanked his campaign supporters for spreading a message to “reform, rebuild and restore the department that reverberated throughout the entire county of Los Angeles, sustaining itself with a belief that together we could actually make history.”
When over a dozen people became trapped by the Camp Fire last week, a firefighter sent them wading into the Lake Concow reservoir.
Nov. 14 — CONCOW, CA — When Scott realized that his lakeside home in the wooded hills of Butte County was surrounded by fire, he knew he had only one way out: the water.
He, his wife and their two young adult sons, along with two dogs and a cat, plunged into the chilly Concow Reservoir 20 miles east of Chico last Thursday as flames singed the giant tule reeds on shore behind them.
Not far from the family, at least a dozen others, some elderly, had also rushed into the mountain lake, all wearing what they’d woken up in. They were from a caravan of vehicles that a firefighter had been trying to escort away from the early-morning blaze before the group ran into the same wall of fire as Scott, who asked to be identified only by his first name.
The firefighter ordered the drivers out of their vehicles and into the murky water.
As time passed, the sizzling heat from the shoreline forced some to go deeper into the lake. Theirs would become another astonishing tale of survival from the Camp Fire, which continued to grow Tuesday after becoming the deadliest and most destructive inferno in California history.
Among those saved was 90-year-old Bruno. Scott’s son, Michael, helped their older neighbor from his home and into the reservoir, though he wasn’t sure he could survive the dip.
“Bruno was saying, ‘Just leave me. I can’t do this,’” Scott recalled. “I said, ‘Bruno, we’re not going to leave you. And I’m not going to burn, so you better hurry.’”
Before the Camp Fire laid waste to the town of Paradise, making the popular retirement community the center of the historic ruin, thousands living reclusively in the thick pines above had lost homes and loved ones.
In the first hours, the residents of remote places like Concow worked arm in arm to limit their losses, and save as many lives as possible.
“Most of the attention has been on Paradise,” said Scott, 51, who has lived in Concow for decades and didn’t want his family’s name used because of the sensitivity of his wife’s job. “We don’t get any attention here. We don’t really want it.”
Around Lake Concow, where recovery teams have been slower to visit the charred remains of horse ranches, organic farms, pot grows and the secluded enclaves of long-distance commuters, the chilly and wind-whipped water became a sanctuary — but a deeply inhospitable one. Especially for Bruno.
As Scott and Michael’s family cat struggled to stay afloat in a tiny cage, Michael noticed a pair of small rowboats chained to a nearby log. He loosened the vessels and helped Bruno, his mother, his brother and the family pets board. Everyone but his dad.
“There wasn’t enough room for all of us,” said Scott, who insisted that the others paddle to safety while he remained submerged.
It was so cold, he said, that at several points he waded back toward the flames to warm up.
Farther north on the lake, Scott’s in-laws were among an estimated 15 people standing shoulder-deep in water. Some of their abandoned cars, which included an old Dodge truck, a minivan and a Kia SUV, remained on Hoffman Road on the north side of the reservoir Tuesday.
Cal Fire Division Chief Garrett Sjolund, who is based in Butte County, said additional firefighters came to the aid of the fleeing residents, handing out fire shelters, the pop-up tents that serve as a last defense against life-threatening heat, to those that couldn’t withstand the water.
“It was a true rescue story,” Sjolund said.
At some point, Michael navigated his crew to an island in the middle of the reservoir. They were safe from the flames, but the frigid water left Bruno drifting in and out of consciousness and suffering severe hypothermia. Michael proceeded back into the water and then onto shore to find help.
“Somebody knocked on my door and said there was an old man on the island,” said Concow resident Peggy Moak, whose house was one of the few that survived the fire as hundreds of others around her were reduced to ash.
Moak said some friends and family threw a canoe into the back of a truck and headed to the lake. They were back in no time, having collected Bruno and the rest of the family.
“The man was fully clothed, too, all his jeans and shoes,” Moak remembered. “He looked like he wasn’t going to last much longer.”
She and others stripped Bruno of his garb and warmed him with a hot bath, tea and fresh clothes, and he appeared to liven up, Moak said. He was later driven to a hospital in Chico. His condition Tuesday was not known.
Authorities confirmed that several of the others in the reservoir were hospitalized, some with serious burns. Their status was not clear either.
Scott remained in the lake until the fire ran its course. When he finally returned to shore, he was virtually unharmed.
Troy Miller, who lives nearby, had heard the stories of neighbor helping neighbor and had, in fact, gotten a hand from some friends after his home was leveled by the fire.
“We take care of each other here,” he said, as he camped out on his small lot with his two dogs. “We take care of ourselves.”
Original article from San Francisco Chronicle by Kurtis Alexander