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Utah firefighters lend helping hand in wildfires across the West

Posted at 6:01 PM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-01 21:47:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY – As fires rage throughout the West, firefighters in Utah have hit the road to help neighboring states.

Right now, there are 11 crew members from the Unified Fire Authority providing support in California, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho.

“They’re not necessarily fighting the fire but they’re giving support to those firefighters as front-line paramedics should anything rise,” said Matthew McFarland with Unified Fire Authority. “That’s anything from heat exhaustion. Injuries related to the fire fight.”

With thousands of firefighters battling more than a dozen wildfires across California, coordinating logistics and communications is a vital skill Utah wildland firefighters can offer.

“We have to be prepared for a myriad of situations and changing conditions. More importantly, we need to know that we can support an incident with not just the guys doing the work but the command structure to run these incidents,” said McFarland.

Wildland firefighters from Weber Fire District are on the front lines of the Goose Creek and China Jim Fires at the Utah-Nevada border.

In a Facebook post, crew members said: “It’s been a long 4 days, but it’s been nice working with local fire brothers and sister[s]."

“These guys work their butts off for like 6 months of the year. I came from the wildland program. I can tell you it’s the hardest work I could ever imagine,” said McFarland.

Their two-weeks shifts are demanding, whether it’s on the front lines or behind the scenes, but their specialized skill set benefits their neighbors and their home base.

“Sending these resources out helps build and strengthen our response here in the valley,” said McFarland “When we need help, they’re going to be here for us. That’s how the whole wildland firefighting system works.”