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Utah firefighters deploying to aid in fighting Southern California wildfires

Utah County Fire's Engine 11, courtesy Utah County Fire

SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utahans are on the way, and others are preparing to travel to Southern California, to aid in fighting the wildfires that have been devastating parts of the landscape there.

Four firefighters and one engine from Utah County Fire left this morning and could be in the area for two weeks.  Unified Fire said it will also be sending 18 firefighters as part of a task force heading to Southern California.  One fire in Ventura County has charred more than 65,000 acres.

“Utah County has never been activated this late into a fire season,” said Captain Patrick Carlson.

Carlson and others helped fight another fire in the San Bernardino area 14  years ago.

“They need help and we’re willing to help them in any way possible,” Carlson said.

California has put out a request to numerous other states through a nation-wide mutual aid partnership, according to Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management.  He said a number of Utah agencies have expressed interest in helping, but they’re still working out the details.  He said other resources are ordered by federal officials in cases like this.

The Utah County crew is expected to arrive at the staging area Wednesday night. Utah County Fire Warden Kevin Cortez, a Southern California native, said they’re also working on sending a second engine to California.

“This is what we do,” said Cortez. “Let’s face it, every firefighter wants to be helpful.  They want to be there.  They want to be in the thick of it, and that’s exactly what these guys are going to do.”

A Unified Fire spokesman said the group leaving on Thursday will consist of 18 firefighters and 6 engines, and will be part of a larger multi-agency group.