Firefighter shares about experience on front lines of Southern California fires

Posted at 9:48 PM, Dec 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-08 22:55:20-05

As fires rage across Southern California, one firefighter helping in the fight to control the flames said it's heartbreaking to see.

Jeff Zimmerman, a freelance photographer for several fire departments battling the fires, spoke to Central Texas News Now on FaceTime Friday afternoon. He has been helping since the fires broke out Monday night.

"The last couple of days have been heartbreaking to see peoples homes burned. Especially just before the holidays," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman worked as a firefighter for about 40 years. He said the fire in Ventura, California, is moving quickly.

"The fire's peak rate is over 50 acres per minute," Zimmerman said. "At one time I was driving down Foothill Boulevard trying to stay ahead of it and it was keeping up with me at 50 miles per hour."

He said it hasn't been an easy fire for firefighters to contain. High winds, steep terrain and lack of rain are making things difficult. He doesn't expect the area to receive any rain until two days after Christmas.

"Some of these flame heights are 50 to 100 feet tall and you just can't get out in front of that fire," he said.

Zimmerman has seen and spoken to dozens of people who have been forced out of their homes or have lost everything. 

"We had a young couple close escrow in Ventura and for one day they owned the home. And that home burned to the ground," he said.

According to Zimmerman, more than 130,000 acres have burned and more than 400 buildings have been destroyed so far. 

He and more than 5,500 firefighters are working at least 12-hours each day, with little sleep, to try to contain the fires. 

He said it's important to keep your safety as a priority if you ever get caught in a wildfire.

"When it's time to go, don't risk your life to save your animals or your property. I know they are dearly cherished by you, but we don't want to see anyone else burned," Zimmerman said.

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