GRIMES, Iowa — Ryan Kooiker is back home after spending time in California assisting in the battle against wildfires.
“You get 20 guys together. You have to grit it out for 19 days – hiking mountains, camping in the dirt, dust and nastiness…getting gritty,” Kooiker said.
Now, Kooiker doesn’t mind getting dirty. But, this certainly was not your average camping trip.
“We got up in the morning for breakfast and everybody noticed a layer of ash on their tents. that was surreal. the first day you showed up,” he said. “First fire I’ve been on.”Kooiker and his crew spent a lot of time in Modoc National Forest fighting the Stone Fire – one of many wildfires in California.
“It’s the driest it’s been in history and they are constantly sending more resources in. Hitting it with engines, airplanes, tankers, helicopters, hand crews. All the resources they can get to put this fire out,” he said.
But there is only so much a ground crew can do.
“Not a lot of initial attack when you have 30 to 40 mile per hour winds pushing a head fire that’s up to 200 foot flame lengths. They back you off the mountain and you get to sit and watch the air show for a little bit.”
Kooiker said there is a lot of sensory overload with the smell of smoke and the clouds that come up from the smoke, on top of the massive flames. He says it was an amazing sight to see.
Kooiker said he will never forget the experience of fighting a wildfire. And he can’t wait to go back.