NORTH FORK — As often happens when crews are called up for an incident – whether fire or hurricane – the Crane Valley Hot Shots were released back to their duty station after gearing up to assist in the Puerto Rico disaster.
The 20-person crew responded last Saturday to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., ready and willing to lend their expertise to those devastated by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island three weeks ago.
However, after assessing the progress on the ground and the resources already deployed, the incident managers determined that the bulk of the work to which the crew was to be assigned – clearing downed trees from roadways across the island – had already been completed.
“Word came down the pipe that by the time we were mobilized, the work had been completed faster than expected by those already on the ground there,” says Crane Valley Hot Shots Captain Matt Dunlap. “Of course we are disappointed that we weren’t able to go and help out, but we’re used to that situation. You get ordered, and then you get cancelled.”
On a smaller scale, one can compare it to a local fire, where a full dispatch is called out, and then as resources arrive and progress is made, resources not already at scene are called off to return to quarters.
With the assignment of the Hot Shots being very specific to their chainsaw expertise, their orders were cancelled and by Sunday evening they got the word to return home.
With all their gear loaded onto pallets for transport, along with that of two other crews and an Incident Management Team, they had to wait until Monday morning to retrieve and organize it, load it onto their vehicles and head back to North Fork.
Over the last two days, new wildfires have decimated many parts of the state, notably in the Napa and Anaheim areas, so the crew could very well be dispatched to another incident very soon.
“We haven’t received an order yet, but it could come at any minute, and we’re always on 2-hour callback, even on days off,” says Capt. Dunlap. “If we get the call, we’ll head up to the station and mobilize for that. We’re ready to go.”