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West Virginia crew helps battle western wildfire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A fire suppression crew from West Virginia is nearing completion of a deployment to battle the largest wildlife in Colorado history.

Members of the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s fire fighting team have been working near Grand Junction, Colorado for close to two weeks helping fire fighters from all over the nation try to get a handle on a major western forest fire.

The fire is the largest in Colorado history, encompassing 139,000 acres

“They’re on the Pine Gulch fire, which is actually now the largest fire ever in Colorado,” said Jeremy Jones Fire Staff Assistant for the West Virginia Division of Forestry. “It’s 139,000 acres and it’s 81 percent contained so they’ve almost got it,”

As you would expect, a fire of that magnitude takes a lot of manpower and a lot of coordination of resources. According to Jones, the crews has experienced about all aspects of a forest fire fighting experience during their tour of duty.

“They’ve done everything from actually digging fire line and cutting trees. They’ve done some structure protection and some water handling with pumps and hose lays and things like that. They’ve done just about anything the fire would need,” he said.

West Virginia typically sends at least once crew to the western U.S. every year to help with a wildlife in some area. State forestry officials are in a cooperative agreement with each other and the U.S. Forest Service for fire suppression work. As with most things, 2020 has been a little different.

Crews have the fire about 81 percent contained after a long, dry month

“We usually send at least one crew out every summer as the fires out west pick up and they need help. Normally it’s a 20 person crew, but due to some Covid related restrictions, we’re only sending out a suppression module and it’s only ten people,” Jones said.

The crew left West Virginia August 19th. According to Jones a typical tour lasts about 16 to 18 days including travel time.

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