Friday, October 26, 2007
Different breed of 'Hells Angels'
A group of volunteers uses mopeds to help fight the fires.
My cameraman and I snaked our way back through the labyrinth of treacherous roads that dissects Deerhorn Valley in San Diego, with our SUV hugging the edge on each hairpin turn. This mountainous region had been getting the business end of the Harris Fire for days and we'd just been given a front seat to the fury of flames that crews on the ground and in the air were battling.

As we continued back down the mountain, we discovered that authorities weren't the only ones doing their part to get these wildfires under control. A group of men dressed in makeshift fire suits were taking a break from their self-appointed mission. With some wearing baseball caps instead of helmets, and bandanas over their mouths instead of facemasks, these men were fighting the fire their way, with shovels.

For the last four days, they had been defending their community by surveying the ground that crews had already worked on to ensure the fire didn't re-ignite in places, which is sometimes the case. They'd shovel dirt on smoky areas of charred earth or pour water on flare-ups of flame from bottles they carried.

I was impressed with their ingenuity and sense of duty but what struck me most was their choice of vehicle: the moped. They told me it was the ideal transportation choice for smoothly navigating the uncertain terrain and for getting in and out of places quickly. With the tiny stature of their bikes and the bizarre uniforms they donned, they looked like a comedic version of a biker gang, but with a very serious purpose.

With fires off in the distance, smoke in the air and ash landing all around us, the setting was close to what I imagine Hell must look like and so I came to think of my new biker gang friends as a whole different breed of the Hells Angels .

--By Chuck Hadad, 360 Producer
Posted By CNN: 8:31 AM ET
  13 Comments
Well, maybe not a new breed of Hells Angels, but surely Angels who are tackling Hell on earth. Thanks.
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 10:56 AM ET
Amazing details from behind the scenes. Thanks for sharing, Chuck!
Posted By Bigger IS Better : 12:22 PM ET
Those are dirt bikes, not mopeds. The only thing that the two types of vehicle have in common is riding on two wheels.
Posted By Jack Landers : 12:25 PM ET
Thank you Chuck, and thank your cameraman too, for the work you are doing to keep us all informed, and a big thanks to the "New "Hell's Angels".
May you all come home safely.
Posted By Jo Ellen Nicholson, Gig Harbor, WA : 12:55 PM ET
Wow, a very interesting and surreal experience, I'm sure. When I read your description, images of movies like Mad Max come to mind.

It's nice to see people working together for the common purpose of saving their communities. I guess in the worst tragedies, we can always find some silver lining. I hope they are successful and wish them luck.
Posted By Salim, New York City : 1:15 PM ET
cool...they look like such California dudes. I love the attitude out there, and they're really getting the job done !
Posted By Arama, Syracuse NY : 1:33 PM ET
There ARE other things going on in America and the World besides these fires. I do feel for everyone affected or devastated by these fires....But come on!

I know from all of this that MY homeowners insurance will go up (and it shouldn't!) to cover all these losses. I also know that the price of gas within the next year will bankrupt me as well.

This is not just sad news for them, but for all the struggling families in America that will absorb the costs for multi-million dollar homes being destroyed and on top of that, having to drive to work everyday with "saudi oil" gasoline. As a single parent with ONE income...there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:54 PM ET
I thought it was comical to see the police on bicycles when they began that program; I guess I'm used to it now, but I know what you mean that it looks funny the first time you see a law enforcement or emer. worker on a bike or moped.
Posted By Terry, Philadelphia : 1:55 PM ET
Chuck/AC360:
Thanks for the report on the unusual biker posse. But even though these citizens are very heroic in taking on the fires and defending their community, the temptation to do the work of firefighting professionals should be cautioned.

Professional firefighters, whether it is in the city or fighting forest fires, have a relationship and understanding with fires. They have learned to use all their senses to understand where the fire is going and what will explode next. Even with that skill and experience, many have died trying to fight what might have been a predictable fire.

So, Chuck, again, I understand the Hells Angels biker interest as a journalist, but let the professionals do their job and let the civilians stay out of the way unless asked for assistance.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, Indiana : 2:31 PM ET
Haddad,
And many people keep on asking why the situation in California is different than of the New Orleans, and is it due to California being a rich state... Your story right now just proves my point. It's all about the people! Can't speak for other state's people, but as a Californian, we tend to help each other in any problem, even if it's not our own. Of course credit is given to our governor, but mainly i give credit to call those men and women, who are not even fire fighters or anything else, but involving themselves in everything just to help out. Again i say it, i Never been so proud to be a Californian like this time!!!
God bless them all!!!
Posted By LulaK : 7:33 PM ET
Chuck

Thank you for this story. It is inspiring to hear about these people and their hard work and dedication to help protect their neighborhood - quietly doing good where it is needed. I am always amazed at how in times of tragedy and loss like this the way people come forward and pull together for the good of the community.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Annie Kate : 8:45 PM ET
Has anyone thought that the wildfires in cali might be caused by terrorist? I haven't seen anything saying that this might be a concern!
Posted By Anonymous : 10:46 PM ET
Comparing the responce to the fires in California to Katrina, I would say I fear prejudice still exsists. There are several Indian Reservations on fire, and these people are often poor and stuggling. I see no coverage on CNN on this at all. I normally love CNN and it's coverage, but on this issue, as a mixed blood Native American, I am greatly disappointed. I receive online posts from Native American groups, and it is well known these reservations are burning. Why has CNN not covered or mentioned some of the poorest in the area?
Posted By Paula Stahl : 7:27 AM ET
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