Missouri firefighter helping in California

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WILLOW CREEK, CA – Helping out during a desperate time of need. Agencies from around the country are heading to California to help with its severe wildfires. Among them is the Missouri Department of Conservation. A firefighter from Boone county is also lending a hand in California. Ozarks First spoke with Jeremiah Vanblack, a volunteer firefighter who lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Vanblack works for Timmerman Wildland Fire Services LLC, a contractor that sends crews all over the United States to help with fires. Vanblack’s crew finally had time to rest after 14 straight days of working on the mountains in Willow Creek. Now, he’s preparing to go back for another two weeks. He usually works 16-hour days. 

“Lot of ashfall even two hours away from the fire,” Vanblack said. “Depending on where you’re at it’s smoke everywhere. The smoke maps show pretty much all the coastal part of California and anywhere downwind is going to be pretty much covered in smoke.”

California really does look as bad as the pictures or videos you may have seen online – whether that be orange skies or fire everywhere. He says the fire has been more active at strange and rare times – like midnight. They normally start around 4:00 or 5:00. Vanblack says where he is working, not a lot of homes are affected… But that could change given the way the fire is moving.          

“We’re near the Hoopa Indian reservation and there’s a lot of houses that could be threatened,” Vanblack said. “And, there’s also just the people that have rural homes as well. So, our interaction with the public has been pretty minimal. And, we’re also trying to keep it that way because of all the COVID stuff out here.”

Vanblack says some of his crew thinks they’ll be in California until it snows, or December. He says it’s important to him to help out. But, he misses his family.

This isn’t the first time he’s left home to fight fires. Including California, he’s been in 30 states.

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