How Utah fire departments benefit from out-of-state fires

Northern Utah News

WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Right now, firefighters from all over Utah are helping fight fires across the western United States. For many departments, this is part of an agreement with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Weber Fire District explains how sending crews to help on out-of-state fires is beneficial to both parties.

The Bootleg Fire in Oregon continues to steadily burn surpassing 400,000 acres, and it’s one of the fires the Weber Fire District’s wildland national deployment teams are helping fight this summer.

“We actually go out as a Weber Fire District unit and as a state resource,” Weber Fire District Captain Rick Cooper explains.

He says the district’s wildland fire division sends up to nine firefighters out at any given time to help with wildfires across Utah and the country as part of its contract with the DNR.

Captain Cooper says it benefits the communities that need the extra support, but it also helps his department by giving his crews “the much needed experience on larger wildland fires which directly benefits Weber County and all citizens of Utah.”

The benefits don’t stop at experience. The captain says this contract also brings in funds for the district’s wildland division. He adds, “Typically, on an average year, we invoice about $400,000 a year from out-of-state wildland fires.” He emphasizes that this is just an average amount. It varies year to year depending on how many fires (outside of Weber County) his team responds to during the summer.

The money earned from fighting these wildfires would otherwise have to come out of the district’s general funds. It is used to purchase needed equipment for the wildland division. “That would be engines, and tinders and staff vehicles,” states Cooper. He tells ABC4 it also helps cover the cost of personal protective equipment for the wildland division.

He says Weber Fire District has about 28 firefighters, six of which are part-time wildland firefighters. This means they only fight fires during wildfire season. The department will send small crews to help with out-of-county fires, but can send no more than nine at any time. This ensures the department has enough crew and equipment to fight local fires.

To the men and women who leave home to help fight fires in other communities Cooper says, “We’re very proud of them and what they do.”

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