New crews head out to western wildfires

Thirteen firefighters packed up Thursday afternoon for the two hour drive that would take them to the front line of the fire.

“I think it’s nice for the brotherhood and sisterhood of the fire service. We’re always there to help each other. This is something on a magnitude that we’ve never seen. Something that we don’t see in Charlotte. I think it’s a cool opportunity to go help others from around the country and learn something about fighting wildfires with them,” said Denise Petraske, a Charlotte firefighter who has been in the profession for 20 years.

The new crew will relieve some of the firefighters who have been working to contain the party rock fire since Sunday.

“Just to go up and help. I’ve never been, experienced something like this before. It’s a good opportunity,” said Richard Bingler, who has been with the Charlotte Fire Department for four years.

All of them have volunteered to join in the effort fully knowing the dangers including poor air quality.
Breathing in particulate matter is the biggest concern. It can’t be blocked through a dust mask. It’s microscopic and goes deep into the lungs and can even be absorbed into the blood, according to Mecklenburg County Air Quality officials.

One firefighter says she’s taking precautions.

“Brought nasal spray to help keep my sinuses moistened. I’ve got one of the sinus bulbs to help wash out the sinus system at the end of the day as well so it doesn’t sit in my sinus cavity to help try and prevent cancer,” said Petraske.

But at the end of the day, the firefighters are taking the risks in stride for a greater purpose.

“The smoke isn’t good for anybody. To have to go up there and breathe it like that will probably down the road hurt us. Somebody’s got to do it. That’s one of the hazards of the job that we know of. We still have to get the job done.”

Charlotte Fire Department tells Fox 46 Charlotte the crews going to the wildfire do not have any lung or heart conditions and firefighters are changing out with fresh blood every seven days to give them the opportunity to recuperate.