Another West Va. forest fire team deploys to the west

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Another forest fire fighting team from West Virginia is in the western United States working to bring a wildfire under control. A ten-man crew returned from West Virginia on Labor Day after spending almost a month on the Pine Gulch Fire in Colorado. Last Thursday, another West Virginia crew shipped out for a blaze burning on the Ashley National Forest in Utah.

“They’re currently assigned to the East Fork Fire near Hannah, Utah. It’s already burned about 52,000 acres and is only 22 percent contained,” said Jeremy Jones, Fire Staff Assistant for the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

The biggest fires in the west are actually burning further west, in California, Oregon, and Washington. Jones believed those probably had an impact on where the West Virginia team wound up been assigned by a national fire coordination unit in Idaho.

“The area where the guys are now, I would imagine a lot of those resources were bounced over to California for help, so they had to back fill with help from other places, which is us,” he said.

Four of the members of the ten person West Virginia crew were on the Colorado blaze earlier. They are required to take two days rest before they can deploy again. There are other restrictions, particularly with the pandemic which impact the fire work.

“It actually worked out because with Covid they don’t want to fly our crews out, so they’re having to drive. They would much rather drive to Utah than to Oregon,” Jones noted.

The teams are rolling in four-wheel drive pickup trucks and carrying their own gear and equipment. They are expected to be ready to start work the moment they arrive on the fire scene. They live in rugged and often primitive conditions while they are there.

“It pays really well, but you’re committing to being away from your home and family for 21 days and the work is extremely hard as you can imagine. It’s a big commitment, but the pay does make it worth it,” said Jones.

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