Hundreds of Arizona firefighters helping battle blazes in California

Jul 30, 2018, 12:26 PM | Updated: 1:02 pm

PHOENIX — Hundreds of Arizona firefighters were dispatched to California to assist the battle against wildfires wreaking havoc across the state, the Arizona Department of Forest and Fire Management said.

As of Monday, approximately 375 fire personnel and 75 engines from Arizona were in California, where more than a dozen fires were burning.

Many of the crews were directly assigned to the two largest blazes, the Carr and Ferguson fires.

Others were sent to provide station coverage for local fire departments.

“They’ll also be pre-positioning,” Tiffany Davila, Arizona forestry spokesperson, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “They’ve got another round of lightning bursts coming in, and so they’ll be on standby in case anything happens with those storms that are coming through.”

More than 50 Arizona agencies answered the call for help from their neighbor to the west, including Phoenix-area fire departments in Avondale, Goodyear, Guadalupe, Mesa, Peoria and Scottsdale, as well as the Superstition Fire and Medical District.

“These fires are taking out anything and everything in their way, taking lives and destroying property. The fires are burning at an alarming intensity and high rate of speed,” Arizona State Forester Jeff Whitney said in a news release.

“California needs more boots on the ground and the state of Arizona is committed to sending all the resources we can. We will do everything possible to assist our neighbors, but we also have to be mindful we cannot thin our resources at home.”

Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington also have sent resources to California.

Twin fires in Mendocino and Lake counties flared up late Sunday, forcing the new evacuations of more than 10,000 people from the 4,700-resident town of Lakeport and other communities near Clear Lake, about 120 miles north of San Francisco. The blazes have destroyed six homes and threaten 10,000 others. The flames have blackened 87 square miles, with minimal containment.

Those fires were among 17 burning across the state, where fire crews were stretched to the limit.

To the north, near Redding, the unpredictable Carr Fire killed six people, forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures.

Crews handling the 98,000-acre blaze struck a hopeful tone as the massive fire slowed after days of rapid expansion.

“We’re feeling a lot more optimistic today as we’re starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time,” said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s incident commander on the blaze around Redding, a city about 230 miles north of San Francisco.

Authorities were also investigating at least 18 missing persons reports, though many of them may simply be people who have not checked in with friends or family, police said.

The Carr Fire was ignited by a vehicle a week ago about 10 miles west of the city. On Thursday, it swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick, fueled by gusty winds and dry vegetation. It then jumped the Sacramento River and took out subdivisions on the western edge of Redding.

Meanwhile, officials said a second firefighter died fighting the Ferguson fire to the south near Yosemite National Park. Brian Hughes, 33, was struck by a tree while removing brush and other fuel near the 57,000-acre blaze’s front lines, officials said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Hundreds of Arizona firefighters helping battle blazes in California