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Fire fighter

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

September is over, and that used to signal the end of wildfire season. But as 2017’s massive Thomas Fire showed us, wildfires in California can rage on well into December. Meanwhile firefighting has gotten a lot more complicated; there’s drought to contend with, and housing development in fire-prone areas. Six California firefighters have been killed on the job so far this year. And it’s a number that isn’t falling, unlike in other parts of the country.

For the first time since his dramatic fall through the roof of a burning garage, a Fresno firefighter is speaking publicly. Fire captain Pete Dern walked out of the hospital Friday to speak to a crowd of press and supporters.

“Hi. I’m am Pete Dern,”

That’s the voice of the Fresno Fire Department captain who in March was caught on cell phone video falling through a garage roof into a blazing inferno below. It took crews nearly two minutes to rescue him.

Dern’s head and hands are still heavily bandaged. Burn scars and skin grafts are clearly visible on his arms.