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Utah firefighters bid farewell to families, leave to assist those affected by wildfires in California

Posted at 5:33 PM, Nov 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-11 23:31:03-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY -- At least nine people are dead after wildfires continue to rage through areas of California, which is why local Utah agencies who are doing what they can to help.

Around 90 firefighters from over 20 departments statewide came together Sunday to prepare for deployment.

"It’s just something that’s innate. It’s a drive. It’s a passion of ours. It’s something that I feel like us as firefighters are called to do," said Capt. Bob Silverthorne of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

Each team was made up of members from at least four fire departments from across the state. Firefighters say it's their nature to work together.

"You may not know who you're working next to, with the different agencies, but you're family. You’re going to look out for each other. You’re going to take care of each other," said Virginia Dickinson of the Salt Lake City Fire Department.

These large wildfires have burned almost 200,000 acres, impacting over 224,000 residents. Some firefighters were sent to assist are veterans who are familiar with the area.

"Actually, I’m from California. I was on a hand crew in Orange County, California prior to becoming a career firefighter with Salt Lake City," Silverthorne said.

While for others; it is their first deployment.

"We're really expecting the unexpected," Dickinson said.

Either way, they say they're ready for anything.

"Structure firefighting, wildlife firefighting, and perhaps helping people evacuate," said Dickinson.

Silverthorne mentioned the last time local firefighters were deployed to California, with the tragic passing of experienced Draper firefighter Matt Burchett.

"My goal right now, as far as a fire officer goes, is to make sure my firefighters get back safely, and back to their families," Silverthorne said, "and represent the state of Utah and the Salt Lake City Fire Department well."

The teams left Salt Lake at 10 a.m. Sunday morning heading to Las Vegas. They will be spending the night there and then will be heading to Chino, California Monday morning, where they will receive their orders.