Thomas Fire first responders still coping half a year later

by Savanna Birchfield 677 views0

While the Thomas Fire has been over for nearly five months, many are still recovering from its devastation.

One part of the community’s recovery that we seem to have forgotten about are the first responders and how they cope with their experiences.

Battalion Chief Gratian Bidart gave some insight into what he does to relax when he is off of work.

He says “[he] enjoys spending time with [his] family,” because his schedule takes him away from them often, and they are a great de-stressor for him.

Chief Bidart works at CalFire’s Air Attack Base in Porterville, California, where many of the aircraft used during the Thomas Fire are held; because of his position in the department, he is prepared to help his firemen with any stress or difficulties they are experiencing.

A vital way he helps his men is through communication; they are open about the problems they are having and lend a helping hand to each other no matter what.

One of the firefighters at the air base, Damien Golden, shared his personal experience of the Thomas Fire.

Firefighter Golden is part of Cal Fire Local 2881, the department’s Honor Guard, and was one of the men that carried out the body of Engineer Cory Iverson.

In a situation such as the death of a co-worker, he said that there have been times where they have “all just sat there and cried together.”

“It’s healthy,” he said. “You can’t keep things bottled up.”

Golden also said that while firemen put up a strong face for the public, many forget that they are human just like everyone else.

One such example of a community representative showing their human side is former Mayor of Ventura and current Councilmember Erik Nasarenko.

Mr. Nasarenko was displaced from his home for three weeks during the Thomas Fire.

“I was at a Ventura City Council meeting,” he said. “When I was notified by the City Manager that… my neighborhood was being evacuated”.

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