WILLOWS (CBS SF) — Thousands of firefighters will be on the lines Tuesday, battling a historic outbreak of wildfires in Northern California that have burned more than 1 million acres, with heavy hearts. A volunteer firefighter from a small Texas town has died in the Mendocino County August Complex blaze.
While the SCU Lightning Complex (383,157 acres), LNU Lightning Complex (375,209 acres) and the CZU Lightning Complex (85,060 acres) have garnered most of the headlines, a small army of 607 firefighters have been waging their own war against the August Complex fires burning in the timber-rich region in and around the Mendocino National Forest.
On Monday, about 200 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., also joined the fight.
The complex of 37 different fires started on August 17 and by early Tuesday had burned 236,288 acres and was 20 percent contained. But the fight has also come at a huge cost — a volunteer firefighter from Cresson, Texas near Fort Worth has died.
“A few weeks ago we told everyone that some of our firefighters were helping with wildfires in the western U.S. One of them updated her Facebook profile picture yesterday to show the terrain where she was working. A couple of hours ago we learned that today she lost her life on the fireground. Our department is numbed by the news and we are hurting,” her department posted on Facebook.
Cresson Fire Chief Ron Becker identified the fallen firefighter as Diana Jones, who was working on her son’s contracting team battling the blaze. She was a firefighter and EMT with the volunteer department.
“She was a classy lady,” Becker told the newspaper. “It’s a tragedy. She enjoyed doing this type of work.”
Jones’s hometown was in mourning Tuesday.
Heather Hall posted: “She was a true hero and the absolute best person! She would drop what she was doing to help out. We are shocked and saddened as members of her family. Please pray for her sons and grandkids ❤️ Our whole family is devastated. We loved her so much!”
Robert C Rangel added: “A terrible loss of a true hero. My deepest condolences to her family and Cresson VFD.”
As did Dorsey Shewey: “My thoughts and prayers are with her family and the Cresson FD family. As a Californian my heart is so very heavy for this communities loss. Thank you for your service and ultimate sacrifice. R.I.P. 🙏🏼😓✝️”
And Sara Whitaker echoed the sentiments: “I pray so hard right now. 😭I don’t live in Cresson anymore but it will always be home.”
A U.S. Forest Service representative confirmed to CBS that a firefighter was killed and another injured Monday. But no other details have been released. The injured person is receiving medical attention.
She was the first firefighter who has died in the current outbreak. Six civilians have died — five in the LNU Complex blazes and one in the CZU Complex fires.