PA Crews return after battling forest fires in California

For more than two weeks dozens of firefighters spent 16 hours a day battling forest fires in Northern California.

“Where we went this year, on the Klamath National Forest, is the second steepest terrain in the country, said James Ross, a forest firefighter from West Virginia.

“I got out there and every slope is about a 90 percent incline; it’s pretty crazy,” added Laura Young, a forest firefighter from Pennsylvania.

The crews were made up of firefighters from several states including Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

They say each day they were faced with a new challenge.

“We were doing structure defense or we were mopping up or doing some brushing; anything to prevent the fires from coming back up or to stop the ones that were already going,” Young said.

“We kind of call it the ‘roller coaster,’” Ross said. “It starts out great, everybody is enjoying themselves, tough work; then, you kind of hit a wall at day nine ten and 11. The jokes aren’t as funny, people smell different, people look different and then you kick into ‘it’s almost over.'”

Now, their hard work is finally over.

The firefighters flew into Harrisburg International Airport Wednesday evening and spent the night at the Lower Swatara Fire Department.

They began their final journeys home bright and early Thursday morning; bringing with them an experience they say they’ll never forget.

“We had some people that didn’t have to be evacuated and we got to save their houses from the fire which was really awesome to be able to make that kind of difference for someone,” Young said.

“It gives you a different sense of the world,” Ross said. “You’re going to meet people and work with them for 14 straight days and you build a comradery and bond that’s unbreakable.”