Local firefighters continue to tackle the second-largest fire in Calif. history

The Big Sky firefighters dispatched to California two weeks ago are still battling the 60-percent contained Thomas Fire. Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) Chief William Farhat said he’s in constant contact with his team, and that he hopes they’ll be coming home before Christmas.

Their two-week deployment should technically end Wednesday, Dec. 20. “But we don’t know for sure, and we don’t know when we’ll know,” Farhat said this week. “It’s a dynamic environment out there. One minute you think things are winding down and then they flare up again with the winds.”

Each day in California has been different for Battalion Chief Stephen Pruiett and firefighters Greg Clark, Matt Mohr and Dennis Rush. Mornings begin with a new assignment for the crew, often teaming up with the other two Montana strike teams. Then they’re sent out for structure protection duties in various locations, making sure fires don’t take hold by tackling the embers that precede the flames.

By night, Chief Farhat said the crew has been sleeping in and around their fire engine, but most recently they’ve been getting a hotel room every other night or so. “It’s nothing luxurious, but things are going well,” he said.

Farhat said that the Big Sky Fire Department engine’s logo has caught the eyes of residents in California, and he has been receiving photos of the truck via social media along with words of gratitude from those affected by the blaze. He’s been passing those thank-you messages along to his team.

“We hate to see people going through this, but it is really nice to be appreciated,” said Farhat.

—JP

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