Firefighters return home from Thomas Fire in time for Christmas

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Hundreds of thousands of acres burned, homes destroyed and two lives lost as the Thomas Fire continues to burn.

At the height of the fire,19 Bakersfield firefighters and over 100 Kern County and wildland firefighters were deployed to combat the flames, not knowing how long they will be away from their families.

For Bakersfield Fire Capt. Tim Ortiz, being home with family for Christmas was something he wasn’t sure was going to happen this year.

“You show up and you don’t know whether it’s going to be 14 or 21 days,” Ortiz said. “And your family, your wife gives you a kiss good bye, you say good bye to your kids and you don’t expect to not see them for a few days. Next thing you know, it’s 15 days later and they’re wondering if you’re going to be home for Christmas.”

As the containment on the fire grows, many firefighters, like Ortiz, made it home for the holidays.

All 19 firefighters from the Bakersfield Fire Department are back with their families, sooner than some thought.

“There’s a lot of things that as a firefighter I don’t get to be home for,” Bakersfield Fire Department engineer Thomas Jacobsen said.

“We were kind of geared up for me not to be home for Christmas and getting ready to celebrate Christmas on a different day and fortunately I did get to come home so obviously my daughters were excited and my wife was excited to have me coming home.”

While many have returned, some are still battling on the front line.

Over 25 county firefighters remain away from their families. 

“We’re thinking about them as they work and making sure that their families are taken care of,” Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall said. “Because the Kern County Fire Department family is not only the firefighter, but it the wives and children.” 

Those firefighters that made it home say they are extremely grateful for and continue to think about all the men and women still battling the wildfires burning up and down the state through the Christmas holiday.

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