PLACER COUNTY, Calif. — For more than a week, firefighters in Northern California have been on the front lines of the Mosquito Fire working to save lives and property.
During this time, they're away from their families and working in dangerous conditions. They also have to find a way to stay healthy when it comes to physical and mental health.
"It's crazy to think when you see it on TV in the news, you see this big smoke cloud and you're in it," said Kenneth Gonzales, who is a firefighter with the City of Fairfield Fire Department.
This is Gonzales's first time working with a strike team. He and more than 3,600 others are on the clock anywhere from 12 to 24 hours a day. After a long day of work, they end up at the Placer County Fair Grounds at Base Camp in Roseville to rest up for their next shift.
However, their day doesn't necessarily end when they return to base camp.
Sometimes they're having to come back and work on their rig for up to an hour, just to make sure they're ready to head out in case of fire flare-ups.
That's why they have to take advantage of the days they're off.
"We really have to take care of ourselves when we get the opportunity. Sometimes we're sleeping at base camp, sometimes we're sleeping in the dirt, sometimes we get a hotel if we're lucky enough. We like to get back, try to shower up (and) get a good meal," said Matt Greiner, who is an engineer with the Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District.
The days can be grueling, but firefighters keep their spirits up by uplifting each other.
"To keep your morale up, it really depends on your crew. Honestly, it depends on your leadership, going through the hardships together brings everyone closer, and you start to really open up to start to share things with people that you don't normally share," Gonzales said.
When that doesn't work, firefighters are offered mental support.
"That can sometimes include therapy dogs, companion dogs and also health therapists on-site at our base camp because we understand the grueling task that they're placed in," said Capt. Chris Vestal, public information officer for the Mosquito Fire.
In the end, fire crews see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For people like Matt Greiner, he's fulfilling his dream of being a firefighter with a sense of accomplishment.
"It's definitely long hours, tough work but I love doing it. I love being here. I'm happy to help," he said.
Firefighters want you to know they are doing everything they can to strategically fight the fire, and with evacuees in mind, their priority is to get them back in their homes as safely and soon as they can.