YUMA, Ariz. – Samuel Machado is a resident in Yuma that serves on the California Army National Guard, during this very active fire season he was deployed to over five different wildfires. Among the several he fought were the Butte Fire and Rocky Fire. He says that fighting these fires was very difficult as the historic drought in California posed many obstacles and allowed these fires to grow very quickly. He describes them as being like “something out of hell.” During his time battling these blazes he says he lost two close friends that died while fighting the fires he says, “it was mistakes that we made that could have been corrected but we learn from our mistakes, being in a hazardous area you never know what’s going to happen and we have had trees come down on a few unfortunate people.” The Butte fire killed at least two people and burned over 70,000 acres. The Rocky fire had burned just under 70,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes.
Machado says his main goal was to save peoples lives and homes, something he did often. He says that many homes were lost during these fires and it always bothered him to have to see people losing their homes and possessions but was happy to take part in saving their lives. He explains that some of the worst wounds suffered from fighting these fires is not the physical pain but the mental injuries that follow after knowing that some of his fellow firefighters didn’t make it and that so many people lost their homes. Being a veteran he compares the brotherhood of firefighters to that of soldiers, saying they are in it together and form a bond while battling the wildfires.
He says residents in the affected areas would often thank and show appreciation to the firefighters. Machado even fought fires alongside the Yuma Fire Department strike team that was deployed to California. He says even foreign countries such as Australia, Samoa and Costa Rica came out to California to help fight the fires.
Machado is constantly on call to return to fight wildfires, he says he expects to be called back very soon and even warns that with the Santa Ana winds blowing south it is likely that wildfires will start to develop in Southern California.