Four Corners firefighters return home from Cerro Pelado Fire

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – Firefighters from Florida to Alaska have been deployed to New Mexico to help to fight wildfires.

Elijah Cyatson is one of them, he has returned home to San Juan County after fighting the Cerro Pelado Fire for 21 days, he says the daily routine started as soon as the sun rose.

“You wake up in the morning you get ready you get prepped, you go to eat breakfast and then you go out to the briefing and make sure your truck is ready to go, and once the briefing is over you go out to the line and work all day,” Cyatson said.

As many as 800 firefighters were deployed to the Cerro Pelado Fire at one time, so depending on where you camped out, getting a shower at camp was only if you were lucky, said Joseph Ellsaesser, a Type 2 wildland firefighter.

But what was even trickier was battling the unpredictable flames, “the winds we were having the entire deployment, our fires were jumping thousands of acres a day and there is nothing we can do to stop a 200-foot wall of fire except air support,” Ellsaesser said.

Six weeks of 16-hour days on the line takes its toll.

“It’s pretty hard, it gets to you when you’re out there for 14 or extension of 21 days. It really takes a toll on you, especially to your family. I really miss my family when I was out there, but I just thought about them every day and it got me through,” Cyatson said.

And when you do get a rare moment, all you want to hear from is home.

“It sounds bad but when you’re out there, there is no way of communication and you don’t know if something is wrong at the house you don’t know nothing. Your just praying that, you go up on a high mountain and maybe get a bar of service.” Ellsaesser said.

Both Cyatson and Ellsaesser added that even through deployments are tough, fighting fires is their passion, and they are ready to head back out at a moment’s notice.