BAKERSFIELD - The massive Rim Fire is now 80 percent contained. Members of the Bakersfield Fire Department joined thousands of other crew members to help gain a lot of control since it started burning August 17th.
All nine local firefighters deployed are safe and back home. The crews spent twelve days near Yosemite. When they got there, the fire was only two percent contained. Captain Jeff Heinle says they feel they helped save properties and gain control, but admitted, there were some dangerous moments.
"We saw some very intense fire behavior," said Captain Heinle.
Captain Heinle says he and the others in his team were on the front lines helping with fire operations and had a close call trying to save a campground.
"We were literally overrun by ground fire. We were asked to retreat and we left with fire lapping on our tail boards," said Captain Heinle.
The fire has now burned more than 237,000 acres. Captain Heinle remembers the intense smoke. He says they worked mainly 16-hour days. To escape the smoke, they'd sleep in tiny trailers.
"They were like little coffins that we slept in, for a very short period of time. And we were so exhausted, you close your eyes and then it was time to get up," said Heinle.
Heinle calls every fire a learning experience, but this one focused on safety and communications, constantly thinking about the 19 Hot Shots lost earlier this year in Arizona.
"That was such a focus up there for all of us. No one took anything lightly and we were on guard every minute that we were there," said Captain Heinle. "The small, little piece that we were in, the big giant puzzle, had a direct impact on help mitigating that fire and help containing that fire. I got up there and it was two percent contained. I left it was 70 percent contained. And, I know the hard work the Bakersfield City Fire put into that played a part in that."
Currently, 5,500 structures are still threatened. While there are reports an illegal marijuana grow might be the cause, it has not been confirmed. Full containment is expected September 20th.