LAKEPORT, California (News4Utah) — Utah firefighters are helping battle the biggest wildfire in California history.
For the third time in one year, Utah firefighters are battling California wildfires. Salt Lake Unified Fire officials say their efforts are helping both states.
“It is not unusual for us, or the agencies within Salt Lake County to actually provide aid to other agencies whether they be in the state of Utah or outside the state of Utah,” said Clint Mecham, the Division Chief Salt Lake County Unified Fire Authority.
38 firefighters from eight Utah agencies are in Lakeport chasing the Mendocino Complex Fire. It’s the largest in state history.
The Utah agencies include:
- Lone Peak
- Pleasant Grove
- Salt Lake City
- West Valley
- Unified Fire Authority
- Uintah City
“If one state runs out of resources or is dealing with an incident or incidents that are beyond their capacity to deal with, this is that federal system of neighbors helping neighbors,” said Mecham.
Mecham says the sooner it’s contained, the sooner air quality improves for surrounding states.
Utah is feeling the effects of California fires. The smog is worsening Utah’s poor air quality.
The fire has scorched more than 290,000 acres, destroyed 75 homes and demolished 68 other structures. It is only 34% contained.
“Fire conditions are still very extreme,” said Mecham. “The weather is hot, the humidity is low, the winds are working against them, so conditions are very explosive in California right now.”
About 12,000 firefighters from other states are helping fight the fire. California covers the costs.
When it comes to deciding whether to send Utah firefighters, Mecham says local safety comes first.
“The local agencies have to each evaluate each time those requests come in and see if they have resources available to send because the responsibility is to protect the home folks first of course,” said Mecham.
Mecham says the experience will further sharpen local firefighters’ skills.
The Mendocino Complex Fire is a combination of two fires that ignited a few miles apart.
There’s no word yet on what caused the wildfire.
Despite the size, there are no reports of injuries or fatalities.