About 40 Utah firefighters left for California early Thursday to help battle the monster wildfires ravaging the West Coast.
The Utah crews come from seven agencies and they are bringing 15 vehicles, including engines and water-bearing trucks. They join more than 12,000 firefighters from across the country, including deployments from Florida and Maine, traveling to California as reinforcements.
“We are proud to join the brave individuals who already have been working tirelessly in California to save lives, protect property and control these devastating wildfires,” said Salt Lake City Fire Chief Karl Lieb.
More than a dozen fires actively burned in California on Thursday. The largest — the Carr Fire — has killed at least six people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, according to The Associated Press. It had charred 121,000 acres in the northern part of the state.
California sent a request for assistance this week to combat the rapidly spreading flames. This is the third time in the past year that Utah crews have helped fight fires there — including deployments in October and December 2017.
“It’s good for California. They get the help,” said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. “It’s good for our firefighters. They get more expertise.”
The Utah caravan — which includes volunteers from Salt Lake City, Draper and Provo — set off from West Valley City on Thursday and expect to be deployed for up to three weeks. The firefighters won’t know until they arrive where they’ll be stationed, though Dougherty said it will likely be the Eel Fire in Mendocino County.
The agencies sending firefighters based the decision on the “current situation in their cities,” Dougherty said. “They have resources to spare. They’re not leaving their cities unprotected.”
The fires in California are some of the worst in recent history with hot, dry conditions throughout the state after years of drought. Utah has seen large wildfires this year, too, including the Dollar Ridge Fire, which destroyed more than 70 homes and scorched 52,000 acres in Duchesne County. Most are now contained.