Members of the Westmont Fire Brigade, created following the 2008 Tea Fire, have remained on campus in case the Thomas Fire reaches the college. The Westmont volunteers, most of whom work at the college’s Physical Plant, will not be involved in battling structural fires but may be activated to extinguish spot fires on campus.
Less than three months after the Tea Fire, Westmont purchased a 350-gallon, water-pumper truck. A year after that, the college acquired another 2,000-gallon pumper truck. Firefighters used the trucks during the October 2015 Gibraltar Fire, refilling helicopters with water on Lovik Field so they could quickly return to battle the blaze.
The Tea Fire destroyed 210 homes in the local community as well as eight Westmont buildings and 15 faculty homes, displacing 62 students, 18 faculty and nine staff members.
The brigade consists of Tom Beveridge, Tom Bauer, Aleks Vertsekha, Ariel Palomares, Piano Paredes, Javier Guzman, Julian Saavedra, Michael Vinogradski, Hugo Franco and Michael Prather. They have completed national wildland firefighter training, which included classroom instruction in fire behavior, fire suppression, risk management and preparedness. They also have conducted field exercises, such as using firefighting hand tools, fire containment line construction, and fire hose deployments.