WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Early Friday morning, a number firefighters from agencies across Utah gathered in a parking lot of the Maverik Center before heading out to help fight fires in Oregon.
The names on the side of the fire engines and trucks reflect a geographical diversity in Utah’s response to wildfires burning on the west coast.
“I see Lehi, American Fork, Draper, Unified Fire, Salt Lake City Fire and Park City,” says Patrick Costin with Unified Fire Authority. “I think I see Bluffdale, Murray and West Valley units.”
In about an hour, 48 Utah firefighters are gathering here at the Maverik Center before deploying to Oregon and helping their crews battle wildfires. They’ll be gone for a little over two weeks. pic.twitter.com/HRfNhMGVpW
— John Wojcik (@JWojcikKSL) September 11, 2020
The 48 Utah firefighters from departments across Utah that gathered in that parking lot are now on their way to Oregon and will be helping crews that are battling raging wildfires. The crews are expected to be gone for at least two weeks.
“It’s a two week deployment,” says Costin. “That’s not including travel time, so it could potentially be up to an 18 day employment.”
This specific task force is being assigned structure protection in Oregon. This means they’ll spend less time on the mountains and more time protecting homes and businesses.
For everyone of them, they know just how dangerous of an assignment this potentially could be.
“There’s strong winds, there’s just no moisture and so the fire activity is going crazy right now,” he explains. “They’ve been briefed and they’re all watching the news.”
Costin says a couple other task forces from Utah have already hit the ground in Oregon. The crews that left Friday will bring the total number of Utah firefighters currently in Oregon to somewhere between 100 and 150.
National Guard focuses on fire
In fact, this wasn’t the only deployment happening Friday morning. In West Jordan, ten soldiers from Utah’s National Guard left for California. They’ll be gone for two weeks to help reduce the destruction of deadly wildfires.
Two UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters also departed with the soldiers.
“We are grateful to be able to help out the citizens of California,” says Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian Johnson, instructor pilot, 2-211th GSAB. “We train extensively to be prepared for situations just like this and hope that we can make an impact of the wildland firefighting efforts.”
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