FRESNO, Calif. - Heavy lifting equipment and excavators are now being used to help firefighters from the Central Valley in a grim mission. The 12-hour shifts for 30 firefighters from Fresno to Tulare and Clovis is taxing and at times overwhelming.
Battalion Chief Brain Price of the Fresno Fire Department facetimed Action News to talk about the deployment.
"We're obviously here for the rescue efforts and now we're here for the recovery phase of the incident. We're here to bring closure to those that are lost, to help reunite those family members," said Battalion Chief Price.
One of the Red Cross nurses from Fresno also helped in the heart of the recovery operation, consoling and offering comfort to devastated families. Jessica Piffero left the Central Valley more than a week ago to help in the effort.
"Our local Red Cross has been on the ground here in Santa Barbara County since before the rain even started. We had a shelter open first thing Monday morning before the evacuation orders were issued and since that time the Red Cross has been here providing relief and making sure people are safe and comfortable," said Piffero
Firefighters are used to rigorous work on the fire lines, but many are experiencing a new kind of exhaustion.
"It is back-breaking manual labor. These guys are out here. To take one step in the mud think about- you are walking in concrete slurry it like trying to walk in concrete slurry- it's up to your waste at some points," said Price.
Aside from the danger facing recovery crews, team leaders are also monitoring the mental state of firefighters to make sure they are not internalizing too much of what they are witnessing.
"Most firefighters we just put that side away til we're done, til the emergency is over. And it's really important that we actually unpack that stuff so that it doesn't end up causing long-term damage to our firefighters," said Price.