GREENVILLE, Calif. — With California's Dixie Fire continuing to burn and becoming the second-largest wildfire in the state's history, (and the largest single, non-complex blaze) the call for help went out over the weekend to teams in Utah.
Monday morning, five fire engines carrying 22 firefighters left for the west coast to join the battle against the largest current wildfire burning in the U.S.
“As soon as we got here we got our crews checked in and put our folks to work,” said Chief Clint Mecham, the director of Salt Lake County Emergency Management and the leader of the task force.
The crews are stationed at an incident command center in Susanville, but right now they are in the town of Janesville doing structure protection efforts ahead of the front lines which are about five miles away from town.
Teams are also designated as “surge crews,” which means the task force is on the bubble to be able to go and deal with whatever that unexpected need might be, according to Mecham.
Utah fire crews say California residents and fire crews have welcomed them with open arms, and they are happy to lend a hand.
The Dixie Fire is also the main producer of smoke that is degrading air quality in the Salt Lake Valley and other parts of Utah.
As the fire starts to die down, thanks in part to crews from Utah, it will improve the skies above the northern part of the state.
Crews in California are also learning valuable information to bring back to Utah. Because the Dixie fire is currently crossing county lines, the coordination it takes to fight such a massive fire is nothing seen in Utah.
The fast-moving flames are also something Utah firefighters aren't particularly used to, which is, in part, because of the fuel types found in California's foothills.
Chief Mecham said the fuel types in the Dixie Fire are different, but a lot of them are the same as what we see in Utah, so it's good to learn how they burn and interact, especially on such a large wildfire.
Utah crews are scheduled to be out west for 14 days, but the time frame could be lengthened or shortened depending on what the State of California needs.
Throughout their deployment, Utah fire crews will not only help save lives and property, but be able to bring back better knowledge, relationships, and tools to help Utah.
“Someday, hopefully not, but someday more than likely Utah is going to need from its neighbors just like we’ve been sending that help,” Mecham said.