Conn. Firefighters Help Fight Record Number of Wildfires

The Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew had a record-breaking year. They mobilized 58 people to help fight large wildfires.

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Rich Schenk has trouble listing the names of states he has fought fires in.

"I wish I could count," said Schenk. "I always tell people I have been in most any state that has a potential burning across the great country."

Schenk is a longtime member of the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew. The team of approximately 60 firefighters travels the country, helping communities fight wildfires.

"When you become a firefighter in the wildland, or really any firefighter, you join something bigger than yourself," said Schenk.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 46,000 wildfires have burned across the country this year. The CT Interstate Fire Crew has stayed busy, helping to control some of those fires.

The fire crew has 58 mobilizations so far this year, setting a record. One Connecticut truck spent 15 weeks in the Western US, stationed between Minnesota and Washington.

"This past year on the engine assignment that we did in Minnesota we were assigned to the structure protection group and our main objective the whole time we were there was just to make homes that were going to be threatened by fire, savable," explained Rich Scalora, who has been a member of the crew for more than a decade.

Scalora deployed twice this year to help fight wildfires in the west. He shared pictures of several homes that his team helped save.

"If you can do something to help someone else, it makes your life complete," said Scalora.

Scalora's wife, Farrah, joined the team in 2018. She also spent time away this summer.

"It feels good just going out and doing what I can to help, really," said Farrah Scalora.

The firefighters see a lot on the road. They say it is not an easy job.

"Just the stress of being awake for 16 hours hiking up and down a hill is stressful on your body as well as your mind," said Schenk. "I would say that stress is the hardest part of the job."

Ten Connecticut firefighters are still in California. This has been the longest continuous stretch of mobilizations the team has ever had.

With wildfires happening more frequently across the US and fewer resources available, the team said they are always ready to respond.

"There is something in your soul that wants to help people," said Schenk.

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