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Utah firefighters help fight fires burning in neighboring states

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Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-18 20:27:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Inter-Agency Fire Center in Boise says firefighting resources are stretched to the limit, first by an intense barrage of fire in Alaska and then by a rash of lightning-caused fires in the west and northwest.

"Think of it as a flaming crescent across northern California, Oregon, Washington Idaho and Montana," said NIFC spokesman Ken Frederick.

About 29,000 personnel are fighting fires, and the need for more led to a rare military call out.

Two hundred soldiers from Joint Base Lewis McCord in Tacoma will take a crash course in firefighting before deploying to the Chelan Complex of fires that have already claimed more than 30 homes in Washington State.

It's the first time active duty military personnel have been assigned to fight fires in the U.S. since 2006.

"Two hundred people in the grand scheme of things isn't a whole lot. But they have value because they're gonna free up at least 200 regular firefighters to take on tougher assignments, and there's fires burning in the west that don't have a single person on them," Frederick said.

You might find a Utah crew in any of those location.

"Helicopter modules and team members from Utah have been all over the country this summer," said Frederick, adding that because units are dispatched from regional centers he didn't have specific information about the location of Utah firefighters."

One thing is clear, wild land firefighters aren't spending much time in the Beehive State.

"This year it wasn't Utah's turn," Frederick said.