BARSTOW Sal Corrao is often in charge of firefighters; however, he is currently on a unique assignment.

The Barstow Fire Department Division Chief led a caravan of five specialized fire engines north through California to Santa Cruz County to help fight the Lockheed Fire on a mutual aid call Thursday morning, according to Darrell Jauss, the Barstow Fire Department chief. These engines are specifically designed for wildland firefighting, according to Jauss.

The fire, which started Wednesday, has caused the evacuation of more than 2,000 people and is still under investigation. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi declared a state of emergency for Santa Cruz County on Friday.

Corrao, who is a state-licensed Emergency Strike Team leader, was selected to lead the team because he is on a rotating list of qualified personnel in the region. Corrao is heading the group in his Barstow Fire Department truck. The five engines in the team come from Fort Irwin, Apple Valley, Victorville and San Bernardino County fire departments.

Fort Irwin spokesman John Wagstaffe said Fort Irwin is providing an engine and four firefighters as part of a mutual aid agreement with the state. The engine and crew will be swapped every seven days, according to Wagstaffe.

Jauss said the engines reached the fire camp Thursday night and rested up before hitting the fire lines Friday morning. The engines are working to help create fire lines and control backfires, set to limit the fuel available to a fire, at the fire complex near Santa Cruz, according to Jauss.

Jauss said he spoke with Corrao shortly after he reached the fire.

"He was able to get a hold of me after he was up there, and he said everything was going well," Jauss said. "It's tough to make calls from the fire. I mean between the work and the terrain, there isn't much of a chance to get a cell signal."

Jauss said although Corrao is not available to help out in the Barstow area, the rest of the department is helping to cover his local duties. The state and federal governments are also paying for Corrao's time and the use of the departments' vehicles.

Jauss said he expects Corrao and the strike team to return sometime late next week, but it depends on the conditions at the fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or