Fire fighters on the front of the Redding fires are facing impossible conditions.
The work is exhausting and it never stops.
The fires are relentless.
It is dangerous work – an endless task of dealing with ferocious fire.
And worst of all it is terribly hot.
Just ask the dirty and weary groundpounders – beating back flames with hand tools and hoses where the smoke is so thick that breathing is difficult, temperatures soar above 100 degrees and the relative humidity hovers at a parching 15 per cent.
One of the groundpounders is Brian Rodriguez, 22.
He tried to pace himself as he heaved aside shovelfuls of leaves and chopped roots while humming to the tempo of Johnny Cash’s rendition of “John Henry.”
But it still gets hotter than hell,” said Rodriguez, part of a California Conservation Corps crew assigned to cut a defensive line 4 feet wide and 10 miles long.
And some of these brave men on the frontlines of the fires have lost colleagues – working under exhausting conditions and it is hotter than hell.
The mood is at times somber.
Firefighters and law enforcement are paying tribute to eight fatalities reported from blazes burning in Shasta County and near Yosemite National Park by wearing black mourning bands on their badges.
“It’s been a very tough month. Four firefighters lost their lives, along with four civilians,” said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, as he ended a morning briefing at the base camp.
“Pace yourself,” he added. “This job will get done.”
And it’s not over yet.
In fact, these fires are just the beginning.
Firefighters are resigned to more long hot struggles to come: A trend toward large, severe year-round wildfires has been brewing throughout California and across the Western U.S. for over a decade, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.