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Merced firefighters help save buildings from Butte County blaze

Jeremy Rahn has renewed respect for the power manifested in a range fire. Rahn, battalion chief for the Atwater Fire Department, lead a local strike team that was able to save seven threatened buildings at a Butte County cattle ranch from a savage wildfire.

Rahn commanded a 20-person Office of Emergency Services strike team that included firetrucks and personnel from the Merced City Fire Department, Fresno and Clovis fire departments, Madera and Kings County fire departments. The strike team left the local area Wednesday for the Northern California wildfires.

About 2 p.m. and later at 11 p.m. Thursday, Rahn's strike team was able to save a 150-year-old barn and cabin from wind-fanned flames roaring through a Butte ravine. During a 10-hour period, Rahn said the fires came at them from several directions but no structures were lost.

Rahn said weather changes beginning Friday helped firefighters gain the upper hand on blazes known as the Humboldt fire. Rahn's strike team returned home Sunday afternoon but another local strike team is not home yet.

"It was a very long night for us," Rahn said. "The weather really controlled that fire. Thursday we were engaged in heavy firefighting activities due to winds gusting up to 25 mph. We were definitely very busy and fortunately we were able to save the buildings."

Rahn said a 90-year-old man drove up to firefighters and explained the historical significance of the cabin and barn. The elderly man was born in that cabin.

Atwater Fire Chief Ed Banks local firefighters from Region 5, comprising most Valley counties, were sent north to the Butte County/Paradise area boost staffing levels at local stations whose personnel were on the front lines of the fire.