UC Davis Crew Braves Firestorm to Save Houses in Nevada

Updated 9:55 a.m. Aug. 2: The UC Davis Fire Department team that went from the Tamarack Fire to the Dixie Fire is now back home, Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht said. The crew was released Saturday (July 31), and was back on campus by that evening. The Dixie Fire has burned 248,820 acres and is 35% contained, Cal Fire said this morning. Meanwhile, the Tamarack Fire has burned 68,696 acres and is 82% contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Updated 2:45 p.m. July 27: The UC Davis Fire Department crew featured in the videos below has been reassigned from the Tamarack Fire to the Dixie Fire, which is burning an area more than 200,000 acres in Butte and Plumas counties. Cal Fire said this morning that the Dixie Fire was 23 percent contained. Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht said the Dixie Fire, which started near the 2018 Camp Fire, is the 14th largest in state history.

Original story, July 23: A UC Davis Fire Department crew helped save a neighborhood of homes from burning this week amid a violent firestorm along the California-Nevada border.

The team left campus Saturday (July 17) as part of a Yolo County strike team bound for the Tamarack Fire, and includes Capt. Steve Dunn serving as a strike team leader trainee, plus acting Capt. Ben Rizzo and firefighters Chad Cunningham, Meggie Elledge and Jon Poganski.

Late Wednesday (July 21), the crew spent six hours inside a firestorm near Highway 395 on the Nevada side of the border, north of Topaz Lake. The blaze threatened a subdivision, but by the next morning it appeared no houses had burned, Fire Chief Nate Trauernicht said. Some out-buildings and farm machinery were lost.

“It was essentially structure protection in the middle of a firestorm,” he said.

Video taken from inside the cab of UC Davis’ Brush Truck 34, which Trauernicht called “heart-stopping,” wowed viewers on Twitter the next day, and has since been viewed more than 50,000 times and featured by numerous news outlets. The clip showed the truck’s windshield completely obscured by embers and smoke whipped by strong winds. Large fires are capable of creating their own weather patterns, and the Tamarack Fire has exploded in size from 15,000 acres when the crews left campus to more than 58,000 acres as of this morning (July 23) with only 4% containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“You know the saying: Not all heroes wear capes,” Chancellor Gary S. May said in response.

“Truly amazing what these heroes from @UCDavisFire and other #FirstResponders do,” Jim Proeller, an executive producer at AccuWeather, tweeted.

“One of the less heralded aspects of wildland firefighting is the mutual aid that departments and agencies offer on multiple incidents each season,” Matt Morhockey-Morbooks tweeted. “This UC Davis crew is a fair ways from home right now.”

And this isn’t the first time this season UC Davis has left campus to help fight a wildfire.

Since the start of July, Brush Truck 34 has left campus two other times: a weeklong deployment to fight the Salt Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and for three days to assist with the River Fire in Mariposa County.

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Cody Kitaura is a News and Media Relations Specialist in the Office of Strategic Communications, and can be reached by email or at 530-752-1932.

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