While California Fires Rage, the Rich Hire Private Firefighters – Smart Media Magazine

While California Fires Rage, the Rich Hire Private Firefighters


Don Holter is an owner of Mt. Adams Wildfire, a private contractor in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Sacramento. Most of his business comes from contracts with federal agencies, but his company is one of only five private firms in California that he knows of that work directly for homeowners.

Most don’t advertise the service widely, he said, instead relying on word of mouth. “It’s not who you are, it’s who you know,” Mr. Holter said.

Mt. Adams Wildfire offers short-term “on call” wildfire protection for families and neighborhood associations in Northern California and Eastern Washington. Last year, the company was on call for close to 90 days, Mr. Holter said. The service can cost up to $3,000 a day.

The majority of private fire crews work for insurance companies like Chubb, USAA and Safeco, which often provide fire mitigation services to their policyholders in high-risk fire areas without extra charge.

But most insurance-contracted crews don’t actually fight the flames. They focus on making homes more fireproof by installing sprinkler systems, fire breaks and fire-blocking gels.

“It would be like a temporary worker during Christmastime,” Mr. Dunn said. “Retail has them, why wouldn’t fire season have them?”

Mr. Freedland, who served in an emergency command center at Hidden Hills City Hall as the fire raged, said that about 30 residents and city security guards ignored mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind to protect the homes in the fire’s path.

“Those are the people that I’d like to see get credit,” Mr. Freedland said. “Not some fictional fire crew.”



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