San Diego firefighters help snowed-in mountain community
Dozens of firefighters from San Diego County are in the San Bernardino mountains, helping people dig out from a series of powerful storms that hit nearly two weeks ago, covering some areas with over 8 feet of snow.
Capt. Brent Pascua of Cal Fire-San Diego County Fire said they were answering a call for help from the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
"They requested our assistance Wednesday night of last week. We were on the road first thing Thursday morning," he said.
Pascua said they did not hesitate to gather as many people as they could spare.
"We sent eight engines, some battalion chiefs and two hand crews," he said.
That's 56 people who are working wherever they are needed. But Pascua noted these are crews that are used to working with fire, not ice. "It’s very different," he said. "We are using a lot of our hand tools that we use on fires, but this time we’re digging and chunking out snow with it instead of cutting fire line."
Those hand tools are helping to clear paths through driveways and helping people get out of the houses they've been trapped in since the storms hit on Feb. 22.
Pascua said the situation is growing more desperate as days go on and people are running out of food. He said when they see Cal Fire San Diego crews, they breathe in a sigh of relief and are very thankful.
"A lot of them are very elderly, so any help they can get goes a long way," he said. "They are just so thankful to see somebody after all this time."
Pascua said the story that hits closest to home for him is about how one of their crews helped a trapped family with a baby.
"(Firefighters) had to hike in diapers and baby formula, and food and water to a family they could not get the roadway cleared ... so, they had to backpack in supplies to the family," he said. "Having kids myself, I couldn’t imagine being stuck in the snow like that."
Pascua said firefighters in San Diego are working overtime to fill in for those who are in the mountains. He also noted that after nearly two weeks, the rescuers know they’re at the point when the situation may turn tragic, but he said they will stay there until the job is done.
"You don’t want to lose hope, because then you don’t feel like you’re giving it your all," he said. "You have to have that little bit of hope somewhere. That’s where you dig deep and that’s where you find that miracle. That’s what we hang on to."