AT 11 p.m. on Sept. 5 personnel from the Presidio of Monterey Fire Department arrived home safely after serving in a Monterey County strike team dispatched to the "Station Fire" in Los Angeles County.

The southern California fire, which broke out on Aug. 26, ravaged more than 157,220 acres, killed two firefighters and destroyed more than 60 homes. Authorities describe it as the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County in more than 100 years, surpassing the 105,000-acre Clampitt Fire of September 1970.

In a Sept. 3 announcement, investigators said the fire was caused by arson, which officially categorizes their study as a homicide investigation.

Eight firefighters from the Presidio of Monterey Fire Department participated in the operation. They were: Kennedy Santiago, Captain; Sean Hagerty, Acting Captain; and firefighters Shawn Benjamin; Christopher Stephenson, Joseph Almony, Efren Villa, Frank Gonzalez and Robert Farren.

Farren\'s assignment was his first as a strike team member. He joined the Presidio Fire Department just over a year ago after starting as a student hire. He recently completed his probationary period with the department. He described the strike team experience as extremely hard work in some dangerous areas and a valuable learning experience.

"I saw the other members going out before and listened to their experiences," he said, "but until you live it first hand you can't fully appreciate what firefighters go through on these types of fires."

Acting captain Sean Hagerty, with more than 12 years experience in the fire service, is experienced in fighting wildfires. He said he was extremely proud of the way his firefighters performed on the fire line.

"With assignments of protecting structures, holding the fireline and fireline construction operations, the work was extremely strenuous, but gratifying," he said. "Being able to save peoples' homes in such a massive and intense fire such as this was a tremendous feat."

According to Presidio Fire Chief Jack Riso, the Presidio firefighters did an outstanding job as strike team members, as they do in taking on the numerous major fires both in-county and out of county. He said the firefighters repeatedly prove their worth.

Mutual aid is a system in which fire departments rely upon each other to provide assistance, not only on fires but in any and incident for which they're needed.

The more firefighters and departments a county and state have the better protection they can provide. Riso said the firefighters never sell the military communities short.

"We always maintain our daily staffing levels and ensure we meet our response times," he said.

Page last updated Thu September 29th, 2011 at 19:19