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‘A lot of destruction’: Several local firefighting teams return home from California wildfires

POULSBO, Wash. – Several local firefighting teams returned from California Sunday after helping battle the Camp and Woolsey fires in the northern and southern parts of the state.

Pictures on Lt. Alex Hickey’s phone show the destruction and the terrain his team battled at the Woolsey fire in Southern California.

“We ended up working up in the Malibu neighborhood, to be honest, it was a lot of destruction,” said Hickey, with North Kitsap Fire.

The team of 20 was made up of firefighters from North and South Kitsap, Bremerton and Gig Harbor. They spent eight days in the Malibu area.

“It’s 24 hours on, 24 hours off,” said Hickey.

They were among more than 1,000 other first responders helping contain the Woolsey fire.

“They had big issue with winds, the Santa Ana winds would come through and gust 40 to 60 miles an hour. Along with the terrain and historically low fuel moisture down there,” said Hickey of the challenges they faced in the field.

The Woolsey fire started November 8th. It’s burned more than 96,000 acres and destroyed over 1,400 structures. As Hickey’s team was leaving, the fire was 91% contained.

Things definitely looked better,” said Hickey.

He added that he’s been deployed to help fire fires in California before, but an injury to a fellow team member made this time especially hard.

“It was tough, it was tough for all of us to watch that,” said Hickey.

Lt. Terry Geiselman from South Kitsap Fire and Rescue was injured when a truck ran over him while he was sleeping on the ground.

Hickey says Geiselman’s injuries are not life threatening and he is back home and recovering.

“A lot so pain. I spent 17 days in northern California earlier this year with Terry, he’s a really good guy,” said Hickey.

Hickey says 9 teams from Washington were sent to assist with firefighting efforts in California. The cause of the Woolsey fire is still under investigation.