The first night was the longest this week for one group of local firefighters who rushed into the fray of Southern California's fires.
Gerardo Preciado, 21, of the Turlock Rural Fire Department, said the Stanislaus County strike team that left Monday morning was on the fire line near Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County for 24 hours straight, until 10 p.m. Tuesday.
"The wind was helping the fire," Preciado said. "We were worried it would jump the road and take out 350 homes. Embers were everywhere."
He said firefighters poured water on the areas around the homes of the tract near Lake Arrowhead. "If we saw embers on a house, we would turn water on it, but we concentrated on the area around the homes. There was a lot of fuel."
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When they were relieved Tuesday night, Preciado said, firefighters took turns sleeping in the engines and going on patrol for hot spots near houses.
Preciado said he got about an hour's sleep before being deployed again Wednesday morning at 7 a.m.
The Turlock firefighter said he wasn't sure of their precise location, but now they are staging from a ski resort and campground near Highway 18. "It gets really cold at night, down to 33 degrees. We're at 6,200 feet. We're about two miles east of Lake Arrowhead."
He said firefighters had a respite from the weather Thursday, but Friday "the winds were helping the fire north of us."
Although he said he misses his family, "Hopefully we'll be home soon. Relief is on the way. Saturday or Monday, we hear."
Mimi Desimoni, a manager of the Office of Emergency Services for Stanislaus County, said the state told the county to prepare to relieve the fire teams Monday or Tuesday.
The county has 14 engines and 50 firefighters in Southern California. "Everything we put there is still there and working," Desi-moni said. There was concern about a change in the weather this weekend that could worsen the fire situation, she said.
Julie Henriques, of Cal Fire's Tuolumne-Calaveras unit, said all the firefighters and equipment sent south still were on the lines Friday. Henriques said she didn't know when they would be released to come home.