LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KERO) — Wildfires have now burned more than 2 million acres throughout California with more than 14,000 fire personnel on the frontlines as they continue to work around the clock to fight these flames. Some retirees with local ties are also helping in those firefighting efforts.
When two Bakersfield fire department retirees left years ago, they thought they’d never see flames again. Let alone wildfire but as they say, never say never because now years later that’s changed.
"I thought when I was released from duty retired. I had no plans of ever doing anything like this and then when Aaron asked me, I said yeah sounds fun,” said retired fire captain Paul Nunez.
Nunez and retired engineer Aaron Moore thought they’d never get that phone call, asking them to help in wildfire suppression efforts. But, to their surprise, that all changed and they’re now up north battling the Caldor fire near South Lake Tahoe.
“It’s wonderful to be back. It kind of stays with you your whole life,” said Moore.
“You’ve got firefighters from different departments here and just the comradery that we had when we were on the job- it’s still the same,” said Nunez.
Last week the Bakersfield Fire Department posted a photo that said, in part “when firefighters see communities in need- we may leave the job, but our passion to serve continues.”
“They recognize that we were firefighters at one time, but they still take us in as one of them,” said Nunez.
Both Nunez and Moore facetimed 23ABC after spending weeks working multiple 24-hour shifts helping in the communication centers where Cal Fire and the National Forest Service directs traffic for helicopter pilots at the helicase. That effort plays a crucial role in fighting the flames from above.
“You know the funny this is we’re not on the frontlines this time, we’re just supporting all those that are, and it’s still an important job,” said Nunez.
Nunez retired back in 2015, with Moore a couple of years prior but when he did, it didn’t take him long to miss the industry.
They added that this is not a scene they’re used to seeing. But other things they are used to are long shifts and endless nights.
“Being a firefighter for so many years I never used to take naps. I was up all night fighting fires. It’s just in your soul it’s in your body. That’s what we do,” said Moore.
Moore told 23ABC that Al Johnson, another retired Bakersfield fire firefighter is headed up there Tuesday to relieve Nunez. Johnson retired with 23 years of fire service and is a veteran of the US Navy.