PROVO — For the second year in a row, some Utah firefighters will be spending Thanksgiving away from their families in order to help firefighters in California.
A type 3 engine with a four-member crew from the Utah County Fire Department left Friday morning for California to help crews fight the highly destructive and fast-moving Camp Fire in Paradise, California. The fire has burned approximately 20,000 acres and several thousand buildings, and forced the evacuation of all 30,000 residents.
State fire officials on Twitter announced that firefighters from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Draper, Provo, Bluffdale, Cedar City and Hurricane, Washington County, are also en route to assist with the fire.
Officials said California has asked for 25 wildland engines from the Great Basin to assist, 13 of which are deploying from Utah. Structure engines are also being sent.
Friday evening, Unified Fire Authority officials said at least two fire engines and 10 firefighters from the authority are setting out for California on Saturday.
The Utah County team was expected to arrive either late Friday or early Saturday. The crew, which is certified to fight fires around the nation, has been working since the spring, said Utah County Fire Capt. Jamie Nelson.
"They started in Texas, and went to Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. So they've been running nonstop since April," she said.
The Utah County crew will be deployed a minimum 16 days and up to 21 days, Nelson said, meaning once again they'll miss Thanksgiving at home.
"A lot of these individuals we sent out were part of the deployment (last year) that got home on Christmas Eve. Every year it's getting longer and longer," Nelson said.
The fires in California right now are behaving the same way the destructive fires did over the summer, she said.
The deployment of Utah firefighters comes on the heels of the tragic loss of Draper Battalion Chief Matt "Matty" Burchett, 42, a veteran firefighter with Draper and the Unified Fire Authority, who was killed in August while helping battle the Mendocino Fire.Comment on this story
"That can happen anywhere. The fire is the same in California as it is in Utah. And the risks are there constantly and we keep that in mind and we try to keep our safety practices at the forefront and bring everyone home safely," Nelson said.
U.S. Forest Service firefighters from Utah are already assisting on two other fires, the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire, burning in California.
"We currently have hotshot crews, helicopters, air tankers, dozers, and engines on scene," according to a tweet from Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest officials.