San Quentin firehouse captains did their part in fighting the North Bay fires. The captains joined strike teams and assisted in evacuations, stationed fire engines in places to save homes, and took part in the cleanup efforts.
Capt. Jeffery Huff, a 15-year firefighting veteran, reported to and fought fires with the Vacaville and CAL FIRE crews from the Spanish Flats Stations. Their team cut brush and put out spot fires at the Atlas and Nunn fires with a four-wheel drive fire engine that holds 500 gallons of water. They saved four or five houses.
They began operations on Nov. 10 and worked the area until Nov. 18. The fires were contained around Nov.22.
One night, Huff stayed out all night evacuating neighbors. The next day he reported for duty at San Quentin.
The San Quentin Firehouse duties consist of responding, mostly, to inmate medical issues.
“Other than that, there’s not much difference between firehouses on the outside,” said Capt. M. McCormack, a 13-year firefighting veteran. He’s been stationed at San Quentin for three years.
McCormack was sent to a strike team that spent six days at the Detwiler Fire, ensuring that once it was out, it stayed out.
“Once a fire is out, it can still be burning,” McCormack said. “Fires can travel through the roots of trees.”
McCormack was assigned to a strike team with fire engines to protect homes. The team cleared out flammable materials from around those homes.
He said being a firefighter and saving someone’s home or life gives him great satisfaction.
“The inmate firefighters get the same training and take the same tests that the firefighters seen throughout the neighborhoods do,” McCormack said. “We don’t run away from fires; we run into fires.”
It’s a dangerous job, McCormack said, so firefighters have to watch each other’s backs.
“It’s one big family,” he said, referring to being on a strike team. “We get to meet other fire captains from other institutions and states. We all have one goal and everybody knows that.”