Summit County firefighters deployed to California to assist with wildfires |

Summit County firefighters deployed to California to assist with wildfires

Joe Moylan
Tracy Porter, of Paradise, Calif., uses an axe to fragment a burning tree damaged by the Eiler Fire on Monday, Aug. 4, in the Lassen National Park near Hat Creek, Calif. A team of Summit County firefighters were deployed Monday, Aug. 11, to assist battling several active wildfires in northern California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

On Monday, Aug. 11, firefighters from Copper Mountain, Lake Dillon and Red, White & Blue were deployed to Northern California to assist with several wildfires burning out of control.

The Copper Mountain Fire Department sent engine boss Mark Nielsen, Lt. Todd Hebebrand and Charlie Johnson. Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue sent engine boss Dennis Jackson and firefighters Steven Wantuck and Frank Towers. Red, White & Blue sent engine boss Jason Kline along with Capt. Herb George and operator Eric Kuhn.

“Any time our firefighters can work alongside others on these big wildfires, they bring back insight, skills and experience that can’t be replicated in training,” said Red, White & Blue deputy chief Jay Nelson in a news release. “They also make connections with their peers from across the country that are important in firefighting.”

The crews were sent to the Modoc National Forest along the border of California and Nevada near Alturas, California.

Punky Moore, public affairs officer for Modoc, said lightning strikes ignited nine wildfires Sunday, Aug. 10, and one more on Monday. As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, lightning strikes had ignited three more wildfires in the national forest.

All fires ignited before Tuesday were limited to 1 acre in size and have been contained, Moore said. The three that ignited Tuesday, which also were estimated at 1 acre each, were still active at press time.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday there also are two larger wildfires burning in Northern California. One, dubbed the Beaver Fire, trapped three firefighters late Monday afternoon, forcing them to deploy their fire shelters. The identities of the firefighters had not been released at press time, but all three escaped with minor injuries, the newspaper reported.

The Beaver Fire, burning in Siskiyou County near Klamath River, California, is estimated at more than 28,000 acres and is 30 percent contained, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s fire incident website, InciWeb. There are an estimated 1,455 firefighters assigned to the Beaver Fire.

The Eiler Fire, burning 4 miles southeast of the town of Burney, California, is estimated at more than 32,000 acres with 65 percent containment. About 1,822 firefighters have been assigned to that blaze.

The town of Alturas, in the Modoc National Forest, is serving as a staging area for firefighters arriving from out of town. Summit County’s firefighters could be dispatched to the Beaver or Eiler fires and may not return for about two weeks. All of their expenses, including overtime, are covered by the federal overhead team managing the fires, the release stated.

“This is invaluable training for our firefighters and we always like to help out other communities in the West when we are in a position to do so,” said Lake Dillon deputy chief Jeff Berino in the release.

Berino also noted that Summit County’s fire departments were in a position to send some of their personnel west because fire danger is uncharacteristically low for this time of year.

Several other firefighters from throughout western Colorado also have been dispatched to assist with the complex of fires burning in Northern California, the release stated.

Local firefighters value “the opportunity to deploy our members to assist other states in need and to bring back pertinent experience to our county,” said Chief Gary Curmode in the release.

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