Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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More state citizens deployed to California wildfires

Grand Rapids, Minn. – Another 20 firefighters from Minnesota
were en route to California earlier this week to join two other
20-member Minnesota crews and others from around the nation
battling 300 blazes that, as of Monday, continued to burn in
several parts of the West Coast state.

Cynthia Sage, information officer for the Minnesota Interagency
Fire Center in Grand Rapids, said a crew was dispatched this week
to fight fire in the Lime Complex of the Shasta-Trinity National
Forest near Redding, Calif., in the northern portion of the state.
That fire originated June 20 as the result of a lightning strike,
officials say. The fire earlier this week was estimated to be
44,000 acres in scope, was 68 percent contained, and was expected
to be contained by the end of the month.

The National Interagency Coordinating Center’s Incident
Management Situation Report stated Monday that communities,
ranches, and youth camps were being threatened by the Lime Complex
fire.

According to the Wildland Fire and Incident Information System,
objectives for fire control included fire line construction,
burning out areas to strengthen lines, and mopping up fire
interiors to ensure no hot spots remained. All Forest Service
trails and roads were closed inside a portion of the Shasta-Trinity
forest.

It’s just one in a series of blazes that have destroyed land and
property in the state. Fires have burned more than 800 square miles
of land and destroyed at least 69 homes throughout California in
the past two weeks. Several other homes are now threatened by the
fires. One firefighter died of a heart attack while digging fire
lanes.

Wildfires have been so frequent and destructive in recent years
that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called on lawmakers
there to adopt his plan for a $70 million emergency surcharge on
home and business insurance policies to buy more firefighting
equipment.

Sage said the Minnesota team, which recently was bussed to St.
Louis before being taken by air to Redding, was composed of
employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest
Service, and the state DNR. The two crews sent west earlier
included employees from those three agencies, as well as the Bureau
of Indian Affairs.

All crew members are part of an interagency organization.
Minnesota is reimbursed for state workers’ time spent battling
California blazes. Also, federal employees stationed elsewhere are
paid from funds dedicated to the fires in that state, Sage
said.

Most firefighters sent from Minnesota to California are part of
firefighting operations back home, but work, too, in other areas.
Sage said the California fires are occurring at a time when there
is little risk of forest fires – at least large-scale blazes – in
northern Minnesota forests.

“We basically have two fire seasons – in the spring before
green-up and rain, and in the fall,” she said. “Summer is a good
time to go (to fight fire outside the state), though we did have
fires on the Chippewa over the weekend.” Those fires were small,
and may have been started by fireworks.

Crew members who’ve traveled to California face 14 days (not
including travel time) battling the fires there. Sage said shifts
sometimes are 16 hours long. She said fires have popped up across
that state, though mostly in the northern tier.

“It’s a really bad situation,” she said.

According to California forestry officials, at one time there
were more than 1,700 active fires, but about 1,400 had been
contained, leaving more than 330 still out of control as of earlier
this week.

Forecasts this week called for increasingly warm, dry weather,
along with the threat of lightning strikes that could spark new
fires in the state. There were about 1,200 firefighters in the
state, from 22 states and the District of Columbia.

The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center entails cooperation
between firefighters from different agencies in the state, and also
includes agreements with other states and Canada, as well as the
Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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