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Utah firefighting resources overextended

Posted at 7:06 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 21:15:48-04

UINTA-WASATCH-CACHE NATIONAL FOREST, Utah — Utah’s National Forest firefighters are spread thin covering raging fires in California.

Firefighting officials with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest warn if a critical wildfire breaks out, they will have difficulty attacking it because resources are overextended.

“Right now in Utah, it’s about as bad as it ever gets,” said Utah County Sheriff Sgt. Spencer Cannon. The agency partners with National Forest.

Conditions inside the 2.1 million-acre forest remains exceptionally dry.

Meanwhile, 80 percent of the federal wildland firefighters are already committed, meaning there aren’t enough people and equipment to respond like they would two weeks ago.

“They’ll fight it and they’ll do what they can to protect life first, then property. But there may be some things that could be lost simply because they don’t have the resources available to apply towards fighting the fire," Cannon said.

Unified firefighter Matt McFarland and three dozen other Utah firefighters from the Wasatch Front are also helping out in California where 650 fires torched more than 1.3 million acres.

“A lot of these guys have gone five and six days on cumulative 10 and 12 hour sleep. They get two hours of sleep and go back at it,” said McFarland about the California crews.

While they’re gone, McFarland said community firefighters at home are sacrificing so they’re not in the same position as the Forest Service.

“We have resources, individuals in our area that are now working many overtime shifts to support us being gone and backfilling those spots,” said McFarland.

Unfortunately, Sgt. Cannon said that's not possible for national firefighters.

“It’s scary to think of how bad it could be if we aren’t extremely careful,” said Sgt. Cannon.

Wildfire season is expected to last for a couple more months.