Rich Schenk struggles to list the names of the states in which he has fought fires.
“I wish I could count,” Schenk said. “I always tell people that I have been in most states with potential for burns across the great country.”
Schenk is a longtime member of the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew. The team of about 60 firefighters travel across the country to help communities fight forest fires.
“When you become a firefighter in the wild, or really any firefighter, you join something bigger than you,” Schenk said.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 46,000 forest fires have burned across the country this year. The CT Interstate Fire Crew remained busy, helping to control some of these fires.
The fire team has counted 58 mobilizations so far this year, setting a record. A Connecticut truck spent 15 weeks in the western United States, parked between Minnesota and Washington.
“Last year on our motor mission to Minnesota, we were assigned to the Structural Protection Group and our main focus throughout our stay was just to return homes that were going to be threatened by fire. , savable, ”said Rich Scalora, who has been on the crew for over a decade.
Scalora has deployed twice this year to help fight wildfires in the west. He shared photos of several homes his team helped save.
“If you can do something to help someone else, it makes your life complete,” Scalora said.
Scalora’s wife Farrah joined the team in 2018. She has also been spending time away this summer.
“It feels good to go out and do what I can to help, really,” said Farrah Scalora.
Firefighters see a lot of them on the road. They say it’s not an easy job.
“The simple stress of being awake for 16 hours going up and down a hill is stressful on your body as well as your mind,” said Schenk. “I would say stress is the hardest part of the job.”
Ten Connecticut firefighters are still in California. This is the longest period of continuous mobilization the team has ever had.
With wildfires more frequent in the United States and fewer resources available, the team said they were always ready to respond.
“There is something in your soul that wants to help people,” Schenk said.