As wildfire activity increases in the Western United States, firefighters from the Virginia Department of Forestry are assisting with suppression efforts in California, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho.
This week, a crew of eight VDOF full- and part-time employees headed to Idaho, joining individual resources already deployed in California, Nevada and Arizona. The VDOF staffers will be working in conditions ranging from steep, mountainous terrain as part of a wildfire hand crew to the relative comfort of a mobile command post as a dispatcher.
Large, complex wildfires require more personnel than most states possess to successfully protect lives and property. Mutual aid is a vital component in the realm of firefighting and other all-hazard situations. During the last seven years, Virginia wildland firefighters have helped with suppression efforts in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and California, and were assisting with recovery efforts in Louisiana within 48 hours of Hurricane Katrina's arrival. (Firefighters from 23 states were in Virginia earlier this year battling seven large wildfires that occurred on National Forest System lands during Easter week.)
"While wildfires do occur in Virginia during summer months, the frequency and intensity are far lower than they are in the spring and fall," said John Miller, VDOF's director of resource protection. "As long as we can ensure the safety of Virginia's citizenry, we will respond to calls for mutual aid. The scarcity of firefighting resources across the nation necessitates our support, and our employees put their lives on the line every day in their mission to protect the lives of others."
VDOF's wildland firefighting crew in Idaho has been assigned to the Trinity Ridge Fire near Featherville. This fire has burned 68,000 acres already, is growing by 10,000 acres per day, is just 3 percent contained and may not be fully contained until Oct. 1. The VDOF crew is expected to be on scene for 14 days.