Airmen from Travis Air Force Base‘s 60th Civil Engineer Squadron responded to the LNU Lightning Complex fire to support the Vacaville Fire Protection District’s firefighting effort, Aug. 19.
The fire started in Napa, California as the result of a lightning storm, and quickly spread through the area to Vacaville and Fairfield - both of which border Travis AFB. Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes in Napa and Solano counties through the duration of the day.
In the early hours of Aug. 19th, Travis AFB initially dispatched a four-person crew to the Cherry Glenn area to safeguard homes. Over the course of the next 48 hours, the base dispatched 28 firefighters with Beale AFB contributing an additional eight firefighters, four from a specialty wildfire unit. The 36 firefighters were dispatched to 10 locations.
“A lot of the fire was not directly near the road,” said Kevin Bouillon, 60th CES battalion chief. “The crews had to connect hoses together that reached as long as a thousand feet because the fire needed to be extinguished.”
The 60th CES dispatched five trucks in total, one normally being a specialty truck used to put out fires on aircraft.
“Containing the fire is difficult because winds shifted later in the day,” said Staff Sgt. James Muncy, 60th CES crew chief. “Trees were falling, and various fires were reigniting.”
Muncy also said the fire needed as much containment as possible, so more crews dispatched from Travis AFB.
Ricardo Campos, 60th CES captain, and his crew were initially dispatched near Interstate 80; however, they were re-routed to prevent the destruction of a neighborhood near Sales Lane in Fairfield.
“If the fire broke through, there it would’ve been possible for that fire to take out acres of land passing through those residences and would destroy possibly hundreds of acres of residential homes past it,” Campos said.
As of Aug. 21, firefighters from across the county are actively trying to contain the fire in Napa and Solano counties.
“A fire this size, there is no way you can contain it in a day,” said Bouillon. “The ongoing relationship with the local stations allows us to assist in working a fire like this.”