Grant Newnom of the San Jose Fire Department drove 90 minutes after a shift to help save his girlfriend's family home

By Jason Duaine Hahn
September 30, 2020 08:13 PM
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Grant Newnom
| Credit: youtube

A California firefighter helped save his girlfriend's family home this weekend when a blaze approached the property. Not only that, he did so after working nearly three days straight.

Grant Newnom of the San Jose Fire Department had just finished a 60-hour shift on Sunday when his girlfriend, Elise Jones, called him with panicked news — the Glass Fire, one of the series of blazes affecting the state, was quickly approaching her parents' home.

Though he was exhausted battling fires near San Jose, Newnom immediately began driving 90 minutes to Santa Rosa in the hopes he'd be able to help save what he could, he told KGO. Once he arrived in the area, Newnom saw many homes were already on fire.

"If it wasn't people's homes burning, you were hearing propane tanks going off and just seen large mushroom clouds go off at the same time," he recalled to KGO.

Fortunately, Jones' parents' home was still safe, and Newnom moved debris and other items from the home and used a chainsaw to cut down trees that were in danger of catching fire.

"I drove straight up to their house, and I was just going to hang out and triage it," Newnom said. "Basically move anything flammable away from it, cut down what trees I could."

"I wasn't planning on sticking around and facing the front of the fire by myself," he added to CNN.

Just as he was preparing to make his escape, firefighters from the Santa Rosa Fire Department arrived and helped fight back the flames.

"If this is your girlfriend's family home, then this is where we're gonna stand and fight," Newnom said a fire captain told him.

"We all geared up and put down some hose lines," he told KGO. "The fire front came up over the hill, and it was quite the battle — embers, high winds. ... The fire was crowning in the trees and spot fires 50 yards in front."

In the end, some of the family's property was damaged, but the home survived.

"There's little minor accessory buildings that got burnt down, and they have a new — I'll call it, landscaping of a moonscape. But I mean, it's there," Newnom told KGO.

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The Glass Fire erupted on Sunday and burned through 48,000 acres of California's Napa and Sonoma counties, according to Cal Fire. Authorities don't yet know what caused the fire, which is only 2 percent contained as of Wednesday night.

Looking back, Newnom told KGO he had no hesitation helping his girlfriend's family despite having served a grueling 60-hour shift.

"I would feel bad if I didn't do anything," he said. "And I can always catch up on sleep."

To help communities facing destructive wildfires in the Western U.S., consider donating to the following organizations:

The American Red Cross allows donors to direct funds to support people impacted by the fires.

GlobalGiving’s Wildfire Relief offers emergency funding to local efforts providing essentials to wildfire victims in need.

GoFundMe’s California Wildfire Relief Fund aims to “support a range of needs” by issuing “grants to individuals, organizations and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping.“

The California Fire Foundation “provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they protect.“