Adam Welsh understands his job is dangerous and accepts it.
The former Ceres High School football player works as a reserve firefighter with Modesto’s Burbank Paradise Fire District.
“Everyone knows the risk,” Welsh said. “You’re there because you believe in what you’re doing is for the greater good of people around you.”
Welsh, 25, and more than 16,000 other firefighters are currently battling wildfires that have charred over 3.2 million acres in California since the beginning of the year.
“Yesterday was a struggle,” he said. “Resources across the state are spread so thin. People from other states are coming to help. There’s a lot of devastation.”
Welsh was recently deployed to the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties as part of Strike Team XST-4201-C.
He’s stationed at a base camp in Tollhouse near Shaver Lake.
Welsh is the engine boss for his four-person crew.
“We have an objective we try to hit,” he said. “Last night, our visibility was no more than 20-25 feet when we were patrolling our lines. It was challenging.”
This is the fifth wildfire Welsh has been to in 2020.
The other four are Mineral, Hog, Loyalton and LNU Lighting Complex.
“It’s a pretty surreal experience,” he said. “You get butterflies when you get there. You have to put on your game face and have that “I’ve done this” mentality. You have to be able to think on your toes and make possible decisions in a split second. The wrong decision could get yourself, the crew or the public hurt. There could be bad consequences.”
Sept. 9 marked Welsh’s 25th straight day in the field.
“You feel the exhaustion set in near three in the morning,” he said. “All you can do is think about sleep. You have to take turns. It’s a mental battle.”
Welsh started working part-time for Burbank Paradise Fire District two and a half years ago.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career,” said Welsh, a 2013 Ceres High grad. “My neighbor (former Ceres Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes) brought me on to the Explorer Program for firefighting in 2011. I saw the impact they were making on the community. I fell in love with it from there.”
“Where I’m at, it’s a great place to be,” he added. “Now, it’s a matter of applying and getting hired full-time somewhere.”
Welsh completed the Modesto Junior College Fire Academy Program in the spring of 2016.
He’s a certified emergency medical technician.
“It (being a firefighter) fits with my personality,” Welsh said. “It’s a job that requires you to critically think. You train and practice to win so to speak. You get to work with a team to accomplish your goal. You show up and immediately make a difference.”
“It’s a good fit for him,” said Brett Johnson, Welsh’s football coach for two seasons at Ceres High. “He likes the outdoors. He’s very driven when he puts his mind to something.”