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Utah firefighters now in Oregon helping fight wildfires shortly after returning from California

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Posted at 8:14 PM, Sep 12, 2020

Firefighters from Salt Lake and Utah counties are in Oregon helping with the state’s devastating wildfires.

It’s been a busy week for Utah crews — some crews were in California for more than two weeks before heading to Oregon.

“We were gone roughly 16 or 17 days, we came back, had about 30 hours home,” Unified Fire Authority spokesman Matthew McFarland said.

Some crews were changed out, but McFarland went on both deployments.

“It makes it a lot more real when you are protecting more than just trees and bushes and mountainous landscape,” he said, comparing the California and Oregon wildfires. “Here in Oregon, it’s a different story. The level of loss and devastation suffered by suburban areas is astounding."

The devastation to Oregon communities from the wildfire is something McFarland said he has never seen before.

“It’s affected a city directly, and now we are working with rural communities, but still communities,” he said.

Utah fire crews are only able to assist other areas when they have the resources. Making sure Utah is fully covered is their number one priority, McFarland said. The deployments are fully funded through federal and emergency state money, in this case Oregon, and never costs Utah a dime, McFarland said.

These deployments also serve as training for Utah firefighters.

“When we come home, that’s going to equate to better responses when we have emergencies in Utah,” McFarland said.

Utah crews are expected to be in Oregon for about two weeks.