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Lincoln's bravest fought fires in Southern California

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Four of Lincoln’s firefighters traveled Friday to Santa Barbara to help fight the Jesusita Fire, according to Fire Chief Dave Whitt. After traveling all night, they were given their assignments and went to the fire line Saturday morning to work a 24-hour shift, Whitt said Tuesday. After that first shift, they got a much-needed break for a day, then went back to the line to fight fire for another 24 hours before being released to return to Lincoln. The call to go came in at about 3:35p.m. Friday. Forty minutes later, Brush 35 (an engine designed to fight brushfires) was on the road to battle a blaze that had by Friday afternoon burned about 10,000 acres, 75 homes and caused 30,000 residents to be evacuated, according to news reports. The firefighters said they were not certain what they would encounter in Santa Barbara. “There’s a lot of state resources down there already,” said Firefighter T.J. Thomas on Friday. “Until we get down there and get our assignments, we don’t know what we’ll be doing.” Leading the crew was Capt. Evan Faddis, for whom wildfires are nothing new. “Every time you go down, it’s a different experience,” Faddis said. Despite not knowing what their assignment would be, one fact was certain. “There’ll be heavy winds,” said firefighter John Ferry. Faddis’ crew stopped on the way to pick up its fourth member, firefighter Norm Kent. The firefighters didn’t know how long they would be gone, but Thomas estimated it being between seven and 14 days. “We always count on seven days,” Whitt said Friday. Whitt attributed the early return to the state having more than enough resources on the scene and the favorable change in weaher, which brought temperatures way down, along with the fact that the fire is mostly contained. According to the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services Wednesday, the fire was 80 percent contained. Despite the four firefighters being sent to the Jesusita fire, Lincoln remained protected while they were gone. “We’re calling people back right now,” Whitt said Friday afternoon, adding that those firefighters would cover for the men helping out in Santa Barbara. The Lincoln Fire Department will be reimbursed for the firefighters’ pay while the four firefighters are gone. “We do it so that when it happens to us, everyone comes to help us out,” Faddis said. No firefighting agencies can handle all the emergencies on their own, Whitt said, and that’s why Lincoln participates in mutual-aid services by sending firefighters where help is needed. Lincoln received that help Labor Day during the Gladding Fire as well as during other fire emergencies in the past. “I wish my guys the best of luck and the best of safety,” Whitt said Friday. “I know they’ll perform well. I’ve got really good guys.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.