Clayton fire rages, parent firefighter called to duty

Henry Tantum

The Clayton fire, which burnt nearly 4,000 acres of land in Lake County, California, is now fully contained as of Aug. 26. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the blaze has destroyed 300 structures and damaged 28 more since it sparked on Aug. 13.

Multiple fire personnel from Marin County were called in to help put out the fire, including Captain Ned Fox of the Kentfield Fire District, father of junior Hallie Fox.

Scorching Lake County for the second time in the last two years, a fire destroyed nearly 2,000 structures. As of Aug. 28, the blaze was fully contained.

Fox was dispatched to Lower Lake, California where he stayed for six days to fight the blaze.

“Wind, topography, time of day all dictate what a fire is going to do,” Fox said. “That fire just came out of there, wasn’t able to be contained, and just made a big run.”

The Clayton fire, although not the biggest he has dealt with, was high on the list.

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, it was definitely top four,” Fox said.

Just last year, over 76,000 acres in southern Lake County were burnt in the Valley Fire, destroying nearly 2,000 structures, according to Cal Fire.

The firefighters use a multitude of equipment to contain the blaze, according to Fox.

Fox worked with bulldozers, helicopters, and planes dropping fire retardant in his crew’s effort to halt the fire before it reached the downtown area.

According to Fox, the personnel was low on resources to fight the fire, largely because they were taking over midway through the effort, which made it more difficult.

“You’d doze three houses down and next thing you know the house next door is on fire,” Fox said. “You really don’t have enough water or resources to stop what is happening.”

Senior Jacqueline Racich’s father is also a firefighter, but was not sent to the Clayton fire. For Racich, the hardest part of her father’s job is that he leaves  for long periods of time, which are sometimes sporadic or unpredictable.

“It can seem really random. Sometimes he’ll get two fires within a month, and other times there will be a couple of months where there’s not really anything he has to go away for,” Racich said.

Fox said that the job often entails working for long periods of time under hot, stressful conditions.

“For a good twelve hour period [at the Clayton fire] we were working constantly. After 1300 hours we didn’t get a break until 2100 hours that evening.”

According to Cal Fire, the cause of the fire was arson. Damin Anthony Pashilk, a 40-year-old Clearlake resident, has been arrested as a suspect in the crime.