FLAGSTAFF, AZ — “Unfortunately, as we're driving around, like I can't believe this is happening again,” says Rueben Gibbs, Captain Paramedic at Summit Fire Department.
Gibbs watched flames and plumes of smoke going up near Highway 89 in the Flagstaff area.
“I was coming home from church, and I saw the fire in Schultz Pass so I kind of knew it wasn't going to be good,” says Gibbs.
And as a firefighter of 15 years, his instincts were spot on.
“Sure enough, pager went off, full recall, so went in to staff the engine."
For three days, Gibbs worked to put out spot fires. His own home even went from, ‘Set’ to ‘Go’ evacuation status at one point. But when he got home Tuesday, thankfully the evacuation orders had been lifted.
"Smoke seems worse. But I think the conditions are better for the houses anyway,” Gibbs says.
ABC15 got access Wednesday to a crew with the U.S. Forest Service based out of San Diego, California.
"Once all the wood gets brittle, it will fall onto the highway, possibly hitting a car or somebody crashing into it as it falls in front,” says Chris Massie with the U.S. Forest Service.
They were originally assigned to the Tonto National Forest preparing for monsoon season but got this call over the weekend.
"Driving along the highway there are a lot of trees here that have suffered through the burn,” Massie says. “Doesn't look like they're going to survive afterward. So, we're basically taking down the trees now while it's safe to do so as opposed to letting them die off."
"This is one of the worst fires I've seen. Just seeing all the families, especially with their animals and everything that's impacted. It's, it's really sad," Massie says.
And for Captain Gibbs, he's grateful to be back safe with his family.
"I've been here for 35 years. This is home. And sad to see it like this,” Gibbs says.