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Vallejo family fighting wildfires on two fronts in California


Some of the worst wildfires in some time are ruining thousands of homes in both northern and southern California over the past couple of weeks. Very dry conditions out west have made things favorable not only for wildfires to spawn, but to spread quickly. Among those battling the runaway blazes are three members of Bills LB Tanner Vallejo's family.

Vallejo's father, Rick, and two older brothers are firefighters who are fighting the fires at both ends of the state.

"I've got a brother, Cody, fighting fires down in southern California. He works out of San Diego," Vallejo told "Then my other older brother, Zach, he works up in the Tahoe region. He works for Cal Fire. My dad also works in northern California."

Vallejo's father, Rick Vallejo, has worked in firefighting for 30 years. He currently works with inmates from low security prisons to battle fires out in the field. The inmates are trained in suppressing wildfires and are led by firefighting captains.

"They've had some big fires out there in Lake Tahoe," Vallejo said. "My dad has fought some fires out there. Anytime those fires get near the homes it's devastating."

Vallejo's family home in Penn Valley, California sits about 45 minutes west of Lake Tahoe and was in the danger zone for a while last week. Both Vallejo's mother, Kelly, and his younger brother, Hunter, had to flee their home due to approaching wildfires. Fortunately, their home was spared.

"The house is okay. I guess that the fire didn't make it over the ridge and the winds changed," said Vallejo. "So that worked in our favor, but there were people that still lost their homes so our thoughts go out to them. They lost everything they weren't able to take out of their house."

Almost six-thousand homes have now been lost in the California wildfires, most about two hours west of the Vallejo home.

"The fire near my house was as bad as some of the other like Santa Rosa and Sonoma," Vallejo said. "I saw over five-thousand homes were burned, which is crazy. That's a lot in terms of reports I've heard of over the years. Some of the fires have been bigger, but those were out in the wilderness where there aren't any homes."

Vallejo will group text with his dad and brothers to try to keep tabs on where they're fighting fires, but lately they've been too busy to catch up.

"I haven't really talked to them," he said. "They've got shifts of 24 hours on and 24 hours off. When the fires calm down I'll get a hold of them and see what's going on."

The family of firefighters are often called out of state to help with wildfires in other areas like Arizona and Utah. When wildfires are raging municipalities will call in all the help they can find.

"It takes at least one crew, one fire engine just to save a home," said Vallejo. "My brother sent me a video and he was there spraying down the house to keep it cool with the fire right around the house. You can't just spray the fire and put it out like a fire in your backyard. It's too big.

"So they just build lines around the fire and try to cut it off. When the fire gets close to the homes they spray down the homes with the water."

Vallejo admits he has thought about making a career out of firefighting himself. With a pair of older brothers and a father in the business, it shouldn't be hard to find work after his training is complete. For now though, football is the focus.

"I'm not exactly 100 percent sure what I want to do, but I'm interested in firefighting, Vallejo said. "It's close to home for me. I like being outside. But right now, I'm riding this football career for as long as I can."

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