5 August 2017. Sandy Fire. Trinity, CA. We pulled up Tuesday August 1st around 1200 hours. We were told about snags and rolling debris and the possibility of digging a downhill handline. We staged our trucks and were told to pack two meals (MRE) for the possibility of spiking out for the night. It was 113* that day. We walked down the 299 highway along the river for about 100 yards and and crossed over to the mountainside. This mountain was so steep and there i didnt think there was any possible way to climb it up. Our crewboss looked up and said "follow me". We created a trail and not even 15 feet off the ground, men were stumbling, sliding, dropping tools, and dodging rocks from falling onto us. We climbed and we climbed through poison oak, cliffs, loose dirt, falling rocks, and dead falling trees. It was the hardest thing i had ever done in my life. The physical strain, the heat, our 50lb packs, and the knowledge that we were still going to fight a fire once we got up there was tremendous. It weighed heavy one us but in our minds and our hearts, we were yearning to get up there. To do our job and to do it perfectly. Half of our crew broke off and kept climbing. The first half made it up in 2 1/2 hours. The rest of us took almost 5. We got to the heel of the fire at about 1700 hours and right away we got to work. By the time we got there, half of us ran out of water, we were cramping, we were drained, but we kept pushing. I shared as much of my electrolytes and salt tablets i could with my brothers. We shared our water and our determination to get the job done. I doubted myself going up, but seeing the tired faces of other firefighters made me strong. That i was there to help ease the burden. And that was the mentality we all had on 15-Delta. We committed to the scratch line that was started and we began to dig a cup trench all along the fires' base. We dug until the end of the black and dug straight up the mountain side of division Zulu. We dug line while dodged boulders that were dislodged by the burning vegetation around them. We would dig hard and listen for someone to yell "ROLLER!" And we would pause, look up, and see rocks the size of basketballs or bigger screaming towards our line. We dodged em and kept on digging. The adrenaline in our blood killed the tiredness and we just kept chugging along like the little engine that could. There were airplanes dumping retardant all around us. Helicopters were dropping buckets of water all over us and the fire. Every time a type 1 helicopter dropped its water load on top of us, we would cheer "F*** YEA!! KILL THIS B****!!" And kept on digging. It was awesome to get dumped on because it was so hot that day. But also kind of dangerous because the water would loosen rocks and fallen timber. We finished our line around 2030 hours and we were told to take our packs off and try to get some rest. We dug in on our line and spiked out that night. It was different and difficult. The ground was muddy and the rocks were plentiful. It was warm and moist so there were bugs everywhere. I remembered i had an emergency blanket so i pulled that out of my pack and tried to bundle up for the night. The moisture from my wet clothes was trapped in the blanket so it got super cold. I probably slept for two hours but i couldn't complain because it was the same for all of us. I wiped the sut and eye boogers off my face to watch the sun rise through a smokey mountain top. I prayed and thanked God for protecting us and painting this beautiful picture and landscape for me to enjoy. I loved it. I loved what we accomplished with our initial attack. Both Redding crews 15-Charley and 15-Delta were up there putting in work. Earning our dollar every swing of the tool. Day two on the Sandy fire was miserable. We still hadn't gotten any water yet and we dug more line around the black to stop any spread of fire and we were all just so exhausted. We were dehydrated and hungry but we chugged along. I guess you could say, we are a special kind of people haha. The part of the hill we were on wasnt even the top, so we just kept dogging line around the black all the way to the top. Elevation was about 3000 feet. I was amazed at our hard work. Even though some of us had just about had it, the determination of each man is out of this world. Its definitely a God given trait. We worked until that night. And when we got to the top of the mountain, we were greeted with water, MREs, and our green bags (it holds our sleeping bags and human comforts like baby wipes and shower shoes). The moon was so bright and the only thing you heard were the chattering of laughs and jokes being said. We tried to sleep on a steep hill and it wasnt working at all. We kept sliding down or we were eaten by bugs. But in the morning, it was yet another beautiful sight. A low layer of smoke and a beautiful sunrise to remind us of the heat and the sacrifice we were making to help contain a fire to 32 acres. I wont lie, i wanted to quit. I wanted to give up and just go home. But i was already there and hearing veterans tell me that this was one of the hardest fires they have ever been on gave me some sort of comfort. Because i was still there. Through the sore feet and ankles, the numb arms and painful blisters on our hands, we fought through the pain and did our best. We spiked up on this mountain for 3 nights. Then we got the call that we get to get off the mountain. It was amazing haha. We woke up today, Sat Aug 5, packed up, and we started our hike along the mountain ridge back to our trucks. It was a 2 hour hike back out. One foot in front of the other. Walking Over rocks and trees just thinking about the cold drinks we might have in our coolers. the petite figures needs to wear for the prom party
This was the hardest thing ive ever done. This was the greatest physical accomplishment i have ever endured. This was something that doubted myself in but i finished. I thank God for all He does for me. The strength He blessed me with and the courage He gives me. Its just enough to get the job done and my crew is part of that blessing. Once i received phone service i called my wife to tell her im well and that i love her. And she told me about the Vista Grande Hotshot that had lost his life. I cried a little. Because now i am part of this brotherhood and i know what they go through and I understand their sacrifice. I prayed for him and his crew. I prayed for us and our crews. This is a dangerous job and we all know it. We had one guy on our crew that got hurt but he ended up ok. Very lucky and blessed. We were demobed this morning and continued our work to be staged at Mountain Gate ranger station where we met other firefighters that had known about the Sandy Fire and knew how hard of a run it was for us. I want to thank Adrian Carter and Trenton Snyder for running water for us. Hiking up and down those steep hills to pass out food and water to our crew. They are both a blessing. Our crew boss did a good job leading us and keeping us motivated. And a special shout out to Smoke Jumper Lopez from Redding for hiking water for us also. I talked to mom and dad and told them i love them. And its always hard to say goodbye to mom but she knows im well. I love you mama! I miss you Pata and Lilyanni and yeai guess Toa too haha. Now to end the day, we are here as a crew eating at Red Robin. Immediately when we walk in, the stares and thank yous hit us and reminds of what we do and why we do it. Its an awesome feeling.
I cant wait for a shower! Thanks for reading my story. I miss you all at home. I love you guys. Damn it, im trying not to tear up in front of my super tough firefighters haha even though my mustache is now legit and has been blessed by fire. Ofa lahi atu kia moutolu. God bless and God, may Thy Will Be Done.