ORINDA, Calif. (KTVU) - After three consecutive and horrendous years of wildfires, there is an important shift going on this year in firefighting.
Cal Fire, Contra Costa Fire, Orinda-Moraga Fire, East Bay Parks, East Bay MUD, Lawrence Berkeley Lab and many others mean to keep their hills firestorm free.
As we've covered the enormous brush clearing project stretching 17 miles from Berkeley to Lafayette, we could not help but notice crews wearing gear that reads 'Firestorm'.
"You know, they're working hard. They're working long hours. They're you know, away from home usually," Jess Wills, President of Firestorm Wildland Fire Suppression, Inc.
The 25-year-old Chico-based company of 300 employees is just one of eight such companies in the nation dedicated to all aspects of preventing and fighting wild fires.
All year long, these highly-trained and certified Firestorm crews clear brush, do controlled burns, forestry, all the way to facing wild land fires head on.
"We travel and do a lot of emergency response on wild land fires for the Federal agencies, and we're used to working with a lot of different people. We use the incident command system. A lot of the individuals that do what we do, they're, I want to say, more Type A personalities that enjoy the rush of running a chain saw. They like the hard work," said Mr. Wills.
32 Firestorm employees, who were working to fight the Camp Fire in and around Paradise lost their homes, making their dedication to fire prevention a deeply personal priority.
The fact is, if there were a lot of fires, these folks would not be on these lines, they would be on the fire lines helping out other fire fighters.
"They're well-equipped. They're well-trained. You know, these are crews that we'd be fighting fire with side by side on the fire line," said Dennis Rein, head of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District's Fire Prevention programs.
"We would be on various wild fires across the country, you know, performing as Type 2 initial attack hand crews," said Firestorm's Wills.
You won't find them hanging out at a hotel after work. It's tents, port-a-potties and mobile showers for them. "We camp all the time and our guys prefer that anyway because noone wants to sit in traffic," said Wills.
Cal Fire is so impressed with the work and the results and the potential, this year Cal Fire began fielding the first ten of its own brush clearing crews; five in northern California and five in the south.