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On the other side, it is the ongoing forest fires that are the climate crisis. James Anderson and Matthew Brown spoke with some of the firefighters involved in the battle for The Associated Press and found them completely exhausted.Justin Silvera, a 43-year-old battalion commander with Cal Fire, the California state firefighting agency, said he had lost track of the fires he had fought this year. He and his crew were sometimes on duty for 64 straight hours, their only rest being in 20-minute naps.

“I’ve been there for 23 years, and it’s by far the worst I’ve seen,” Silvera said before sitting in a motel for 24 hours. After working in Santa Cruz County, his next assignment was to head north to attack the wildfires near the Oregon border.

Signs posted outside the Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department in Santa Cruz County, California. Photograph: Chris Tuite / ImageSPACE / REX / Shutterstock

“There are never enough resources,” said Silvera, one of California’s nearly 17,000 firefighters. “Usually with Cal Fire we can attack tankers, helicopters, bulldozers. We’re good at it. But these conditions on the ground, the drought, the wind, that thing is just taking off. We cannot contain one until another erupts.

Washington State Forester George Geissler said there were hundreds of unfulfilled requests for help across the West. Agencies are constantly looking for firefighters, planes, engines and support personnel.

Fire crews have been summoned from at least nine states and other countries, including Canada and Israel. Hundreds of agreements allowing agencies to offer mutual assistance have been maximized at the federal, state and local levels, he said.

People watch the Bobcat fire burn on the hills behind homes in Monrovia, Calif., September 15, 2020.

People watch the Bobcat fire burn on the hills behind houses in Monrovia, Calif., September 15, 2020. Photograph: Ringo Chiu / AFP / Getty Images

Tim Edwards, union president of Cal Fire, the nation’s second largest firefighting agency, said: “We are hardened to fight, but it seems year after year it’s getting harder and harder, and to at some point we won’t be able to screed. We will reach a breaking point.

The immediate dangers of the fires are compounded by concerns about Covid at camp and at home. Firefighters “see all this destruction and fatigue, and then they get these calls from their homes, where their families are taking care of school and child care because of COVID.” It stresses them out, and we have to keep our lead in the game, ”said the 25-year veteran.

An aerial view shows properties destroyed by the Almeda fire in Talent, Ore., September 15, 2020.

An aerial view shows properties destroyed by the Almeda fire in Talent, Ore., September 15, 2020. Photograph: Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

Besides the human toll, fires also have economic implications. California alone has spent $ 529 million since July 1 on wildfires, said Daniel Berlant, deputy director of Cal Fire. By comparison, the state spent $ 691 million for the entire fiscal year that ended June 30. The US government will reimburse most of the state costs for larger disasters.


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