Oakland City firefighters reflect on time battling wildfires on west coast

Oakland City firefighters reflect on time battling wildfires on west coast

OAKLAND CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - Two retired wildland firefighters from Gibson County are watching as firefighters work around the clock to bring fires under control on the west coast.

“The whether the fuel, the time of day, everything affects the wildland fire,” retired wildland firefighter Bill Putt said.

It’s been 26 years since Putt has fought a wildfire in California.

“It’s one thing to see thousands of acres of wilderness burn up, but then when you see entire towns that are burned down, nothing but smoldering remains and ashes, you know, that does affect you for years to come,” Putt said.

Although time has passed, the raging fires happening out west bring back memories for the 61-year-old retired firefighter.

“Now a lot of the places in 1987 where I was fighting, firefighters and we considered it remote, is now full of houses, and now you’re burning houses down in addition to the trees," Putt said. "I look at these fires and what it seems like is happening was the fires just out ran and outpaced the crews, because they just couldn’t get up to the top of the mountain, and once it gets wind-driven, it’s pretty much game over.

Putt’s job title, wildland firefighter, went beyond that.

“You don’t want anyone to get burned, you don’t want anyone to die," Putt said. “We’ve had incidents where all that has happened.”

His 31-year-old son Scott followed in his footsteps.

“You can live in a place like here and see it on the news, and not really understand the magnitude, devastation that’s going on out there,” Scott Putt said.

Two years ago, Scott fought wildfires in California for six months.

The Putt family says there are a couple of ways people from the Tri-State can help. Those interested in donating can visit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation official website or Facebook page.

“We need to find ways we can assist, find ways that we can donate,” Scott said. “In whatever way that we can to kind of do our part and help with all the things that’s going on out there, since we living here are fortunate that’s not something that we have to deal with on a daily basis.”

Copyright 2020 WFIE. All rights reserved.