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Fighting Back Flames, Wildfire Firefighters Also Battle Exhaustion

SONOMA (KPIX5)  -- The same winds that fanned the flames, turning small fires into infernos, are now working to firefighters' advantage.

Thousands of firefighters who are working around the clock to stop the wildfires in Northern California are appreciating lower temperatures on the front lines..

U.S. Forest Service Capt. Sean Gast said, "Obviously, the weather today is very favorable for us doing this. We've made very good progress..."

The Groveland Hot Shot crew from the U.S. Forest Service near Yosemite set back fires along Moon Mountain Road hoping that the two fires will meet and snuff each other out.

Gast said, "We're bringing fire to the main fire. And once they hit, there's no more fuel to burn and they will go out over time."

After days of virtually zero percent containment, cooler temperatures and favorable winds have finally helped firefighters get the upperhand against the massive wildfire burning in the hills above Sonoma.

The Hot Shots, who work, eat and sleep on the fire lines, stood guard Friday afternoon, their backs to the blaze still climbing the hill behind them. Their eyes trained not on where the fire's been, but on where it's likely to go next.

Gast said, "All of the guys on the line -- who are holding the line -- are looking in the green because we're looking for any spot fires or embers that might go over into the green. So, if we do get anything into the green, we can react and get on it real quick."

Ian Yocum, Battalion Chief from Aloha, Oregon said, "They called and within six hours, we had 5 strike teams committed to this fire."

The team shift is 24 hours on, 24 hours off. During the precious down time folks get as much sleep and rest as they can.

Firefighters from Arizona say fighting fires is very different in Arizona.

Al diBenedetto, a Captain from Scottsdale Fire Department in Arizona said, "The weather is a lot nicer here. It's cooler...our fire seasons we're running about 100-110 degrees so this is I mean, we get cold here."

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