Man with Central Valley ties evacuates three times this wildfire season


Both the CZU Lightning Complex Fire and Creek Fire have forced Don Hartline to pack up and leave

FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Pack up and go: it’s a phrase one man who grew up in the Central Valley has heard many times this past month after having to evacuate three times because of wildfires.

Don Hartline, a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ranger, evacuated twice in August because of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. He evacuated a third time when the Creek Fire sparked.

Despite losing his home and seeing the camps in his council get significant damage — he’s still able to smile through it all.

Hartline lives at Cutter Scout Reservation, which is part of the Pacific Skyline Council of the BSA. That’s where he first had to evacuate from when the CZU Lightning Complex Fire started to encroach the camp’s exit.

“I had about 90 minutes to gather up everything I could, throw it in the truck, and get the heck out of there,” Hartline said.

He drove down to another nearby BSA camp, the Boulder Scout Creek Scout Reservation. However, just seven hours after settling there, he had to leave again because of the same fire.

“I helped our ranger at that camp pack up his family and as much of his stuff as he could. [Also] do what we could to protect his property,” Hartline said.

Eventually, he went to his council’s third and last camp, Camp Oljato on the south shore of Huntington Lake. He got there just in time for Labor Day weekend — just in time for the Creek Fire to spark. He evacuated the morning of Sept. 5.

Hartline said it’s easy to get frustrated about everything.

“[You ask], why does this keep happening? But, at the same time, it’s wildfire. There’s no one to blame,” he said.

Hartline is now back at the Boulder Creek Scout Reservation. He has learned his home has been destroyed and there’s significant rebuilding to do overall.

But, he said at least it’s not all lost.

“There’s always something left to build on. You got to be positive about it. You can’t let it devastate you,” he said.

While Hartline was born in Orange County, he grew up in Bakersfield. He graduated from Fresno State in 1990.

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