‘It’s been a tough week:’ Aaron Rodgers honors firefighters battling wildfires in postgame news conference

Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers wore a hat supporting the Santa Monica Fire Department in his postgame news conference after the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Nov. 11 — and spoke about the wildfires that have impacted his life.

“It’s been a tough week. It has. I’ve been on the phone with a lot of folks close to me in Northern California and in southern California. I had the fortune to meet some great firefighters from Santa Monica in the off-season. They sent me this hat, and as I was thinking of my house today, this was the only kind of paraphernalia I had that could represent my support for those folks who are fighting the fires. Obviously, my heart goes out to the great people of Paradise, California. Growing up in Chico and spending a great deal of time there, I played a lot of football and basketball and sports up in Paradise — basically lived in Magalia at one point, which is a kind of an even tinier town off of Paradise, and the devastation there is tough. Hearing the stories of people running down the highways to avoid the fire, knowing that people burned alive in their cars, I mean, it’s heartbreaking for sure, and then you have a fire in my adopted home of Southern California, so it’s been a tough week for sure, and myself and the guys from Southern California and Northern California, obviously our thoughts and our prayers are with those folks, not only the great firefighters fighting the fires, but all the people displaced in my home area, Butte County, and then obviously down south in the LA area,” said Rodgers.

Clay Matthews, outside linebacker, also spoke out about the wildfires on Sunday.

“That was really scary. Most of the time, you hear wildfires out there, they are obviously pretty bad you know, but uh, they don’t ever get that close. I probably spent from the time I got off of work here, watching six hours of consecutive LA news because there was a mandatory evacuation for the house we are currently living in as well as my parents. I lost communication with them  Friday evening through Saturday noon. That was nerve-wracking as well. It came all the way up to our gates, our development. No one…the fires they already had, the firefighters were all spread out. It was pretty…told my wife when I went to sleep, I said ‘we are either gonna have our house in the morning or not.’ Fortunately on Saturday, my neighbor sent me a picture of the house — and still standing. I don’t know if you guys have seen the footage of it. It’s terrifying. Those…it’s not, not a good deal. A bunch of lives lost and homes and structures burned down. It’s unfortunate. It’s one of those natural disasters that California has to deal with and it’s truly unfortunate, but hopefully if firefighters, responders get a handle on this thing soon and weather permits — get this under control,” said Matthews.

As relatives desperately searched shelters for missing loved ones, crews stepped up the search for bodies in the smoking ruins of Paradise on Sunday, loading the remains of at least one victim into a hearse. Wildfires continued to rage on both ends of the state.

The statewide death toll stood at 31 and appeared certain to rise. More than 100 people were reported missing after the so-called Camp Fire ravaged a swath of Northern California.

At least five search teams were working in Paradise — a town of 27,000 that was largely incinerated on Thursday — and in surrounding communities. Authorities called in a mobile DNA lab and anthropologists to help identify victims of the most destructive wildfire in California history.

By early afternoon, one of the two black hearses stationed in Paradise had picked up another set of remains.

People looking for friends or relatives called evacuation centers, hospitals, police and the coroner’s office.

Officials and relatives held out hope that many of those unaccounted for were safe and simply had no cellphones or other ways to contact loved ones. The sheriff’s office in the stricken northern county set up a missing-persons call center to help connect people.

Gov. Jerry Brown said California is requesting aid from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has blamed “poor” forest management for the fires. Brown told a press briefing that federal and state governments must do more forest management but said that’s not the source of the problem.

“Managing all the forests in everywhere we can does not stop climate change,” Brown said. “And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years.”

Firefighters battling the so-called Camp fire with shovels and bulldozers, flame retardants and hoses expected wind gusts up to 40 mph (64 kph) overnight Sunday. Officials said they expect the wind to die down by midday Monday, but there was still no rain in sight.

More than 8,000 firefighters in all battled three large wildfires burning across nearly 400 square miles (1,040 square kilometers) in Northern and Southern California, with out-of-state crews arriving.

The worst of the blazes was in Northern California, where the number of people killed in that fire alone, at least 23, made it the third-deadliest on record in the state. Two people were also found dead in a wildfire in Southern California, where flames tore through Malibu mansions and working-class Los Angeles suburbs alike.