In the early days of the Bobcat fire, Crew 63 got a call to head for Angeles National Forest, into the mountains where flames barreled through tall grass and chaparral.
The fire was making a push toward Azusa Canyon, smoke blowing too thick for helicopter reconnaissance, so Jerry Garcia grabbed one of his men and hiked a few miles up a dirt road to scout the situation.
As a veteran crew boss for the U.S. Forest Service, Garcia was looking for a place where his people could make a stand. Though he had fought fires for more than a decade, this time felt different.
“Honestly,” he says, “my stomach was churning.”
There was room for his crew to start working with chainsaws and hand tools, so that wasn’t a