AZ firefighter shares incredible video from massive CA wildfire

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(Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department) (Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department)
(Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department) (Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department)
(Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department) (Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department)
(Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department) (Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department)
(Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department) (Source: Daisy Mountain Fire Department)

Close to 200 Arizona firefighters are working the lines of one of the most destructive fires California has ever seen. 

The Thomas Fire has burned more than 270,000 acres (nearly 422 square miles) over the past two weeks and has destroyed more than 700 homes. (For perspective, the Phoenix area is 512 square miles; Tucson is almost 227 square miles.)

[READ MORE: Thomas Fire on course to become California's largest-ever wildfire]

Daisy Mountain firefighter and paramedic Jay Walter has been in California since the fire broke out. He has become part of the incident management team and took some incredible video and pictures over the weekend when wind once again kicked the fire into high gear.

Walter spoke with Arizona’s Family via Skype Monday afternoon.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult fire to fight due to the winds that we've seen over here,” he explained. “We've had a lot of sundowners [a northerly offshore wind] as well as Santa Ana winds that have kind of been continuous throughout the incident. There was quite a bit of fire behavior in here the other day; it made for some very tense firefighting.”

The fire moved quickly toward structures. The crews were using whatever they had available to put water on the flames as quickly as they could. Even Walter, who usually supervises and plans the course of action, jumped into the firefight.

“At times, we utilized the hoses right on the structures. And in those videos, those are actually the garden hoses that were left behind by the homeowners when they evacuated,” he said. “You have to improvise and overcome at times and kind of use what you got to your advantage. And in that case, that’s what was available. But that's all it took to save those homes. We needed somebody there with a little bit of water and a little bit of training and that was what made the difference.”

[RELATED: Thomas Fire now third-largest wildfire in modern California history]

The winds died down Monday and according to Walter, that gave firefighters the chance to get hand crews to the edge of the line to reinforce some of the dozer lines and use helicopters and tankers to drop water and retardant.

“On any of these fires, they're always dynamic. They're rapidly moving, you know? They can be unpredictable,” he said. “But we train on this and we see a lot of fires throughout the summer. I mean, it's never something you can turn your back on and you can never say one is exactly like the other. So, you always have to be on your toes.”

The married father of one son said he was never at a point where he feared for his safety as much as being hypervigilant of what was going on around him.

Walter’s stint at the fire will likely not be over until at least Dec. 28, which means he will not be with his family in Arizona for Christmas. And while that is not his first choice, he said it is his privilege to be on the front lines of the Thomas Fire with his brother and sister firefighters.

[RELATED: Fire engineer dies as California's Thomas Fire keeps burning]

“I will be out here. But fortunately, just like I have a good department that I work for that's understanding of me being out here, I have an even better wife and son that understand what their father does. And they know that this is a very unique situation,” he said. “I told them to carry on as usual and when I get home we'll have a kind of a second Christmas, if you will, and we'll celebrate it as a big family.” 

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