Fires in the forest can have catastrophic effects and endanger both life and property. It is imperative that "vegetation fires" be extinguished before they are allowed to grow into a major fire. The Huntington Lake Fire Department maintains a response time averaging six minutes and we arrive on-scene with outstanding equipment and extraordinary training. We regularly have been able to get fires under control while additional resources are on the way from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service. While they can be on-scene in approximately 45 minutes we have had to wait as much as two hours for back-up in our remote location.
When dispatched, we respond in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is fire retardant but also light weight and reasonably cool to wear in an outdoor summer environment. Lighter weight fire protective clothing is critically important when we have to hike into remote fires.
A structure fire is any fire in a man-made structure. These are typically caused by accidents within the structure, but also may be caused by poorly maintained fire places, electrical wiring, cooking fires, and even rodents causing shorts in the wires within or leading to the structure.
HLVFD will fight all but incipient fires "defensively", meaning that our first priority, assuming their are no victims in the structure, will be to protect the surrounding growth from catching fire and to protect the 'exposures'. Defensive firefighting often includes directing hose streams into the structure through open doors or windows.
If we believe that their is a victim in the structure, we will enter the structure in full "bunker gear", which is heavily insulated PPE able to protect us from the up 1000 degree F heat inside a structure fire, and wear and use "Self Contained Breathing Apparatus" (SCBA's). This would be the only situation in which we would risk the lives of our firefighters going into a structure.
We also classify vehicle fires as Structure fires because we need the same PPE. Surprising to most people is that we respond in full PPE and breathing apparatus to dumpster fires because of the noxious gases that may be produced from burning garbage, refuse and debris.
Mutual Aid Response
We also are called upon to provide mutual aid and/or automatic aid support to fellow fire companies in Big Creek and Shaver Lake as well as to Cal Fire and the US Forest Service. Typically, this request is for our Water Tender and crew. Shown at right is our recently retired 1959 Water Tender serving on the Peterson fire (near the top of the four lane) a few years ago. The tender is the unit on the left in the picture. Our Chief, Brother Chris, is standing in front of the tender. We have subsequently replaced the Water tender with a new, modern unit but there is nothing we can do about our old Chief!