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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – As flames from a raging wildfire raced toward houses in canyons north of Los Angeles last weekend, a sprawling high school campus was transformed into a busy firefighting supply base — with tents on the football field and enough Gatorade and portable toilets for 3,000 firefighters.
Running the supply operation was 74-year-old Jack Van Lear, a retired U.S. Forest Service civil engineer. His job was to mobilize the office trailers, fuel tenders, mess tent, laundry and other support logistics.
As massive wildfires become the norm in tinder-dry California, such elaborate base camps and supply operations have become the backbone of fighting fires.
The camps are quickly established with military precision at all major fires in the state, with workers moving and preparing massive amounts of food and taking care of other necessities so firefighters can focus on saving lives and property.