Trapped, a crew waits for the fire
When the blaze jumped Santiago Canyon Road, volunteer firefighter David Hunt knew that he and 11 colleagues were a last line of defense between the Santiago fire and homes in the canyons of eastern Orange County.
Late Monday afternoon, Hunt, 43, charged up a steep, rocky hill a few miles from his home in Modjeska Canyon with his fellow firefighters, hose in hand.
As flames roared up the incline, they opened the nozzle, but found, to their horror, that no water was coming out. The hose had burned through, as had the others they tried.
With no place to escape and the fire about to overtake them, someone gave the order “Deploy your emergency packs” -- metallic, fireproof coverings called “shake ‘n’ bakes” by the firefighters. The eerie sight of the huddled firefighters was captured in a photo that appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Times. It was the first time the emergency packs had been deployed by firefighters in Orange County.
Hunt said the heat was intense as the fire passed over his group. He couldn’t estimate how long they were under the coverings, but said it felt like a long time.
“Then someone said, ‘All clear,’ and we got up and walked away,” Hunt said. “I think we were all pretty lucky.”
Hunt, who works at his father’s high-tech instrument company, was one of three volunteers from the tight-knit, all-volunteer Station 16 in Modjeska Canyon. They train Wednesday evenings and other times during the week.
Marc Grossman, another Modjeska Canyon volunteer firefighter caught in the blaze, just shrugged when asked about the incident.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” said Grossman, who teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes. “We walked away” from it.
But some of his neighbors thought otherwise.
“I’m very grateful,” said John Whitfield, a professional juggler and 14-year resident of Modjeska Canyon. “I’m absolutely, totally grateful. I’d do anything for those guys.”
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