150 local firefighters battling blazes outside Nevada County
Nevada County-based firefighting agencies have dispatched more than 150 firefighters, chiefs and captains to battle seven different wildfires in Nevada, Utah and Northern California, officials said.
Nationally, about 15,000 U.S. firefighters are battling nearly 70 fires bigger than 100 acres in 12 states, the Associated Press reported.
The nation’s wildfire preparedness was raised to its highest level Thursday, as dry lightning sparked dozens of new fires in the bone-dry West. The region had been at level four for a few weeks when officials at the National Interagency Fire Center decided to raise it to level five.
“It’s driven by a couple of things: The number of large fires we have, and also the fires are occurring in several states and in several geographic areas,” fire center spokesman Randy Eardley said. “The resources we have are being stretched thin.”
The change allows fire managers to request help from international crews, and National Guard units could be mobilized. On Thursday, fire center spokesman Ken Frederick said new crews were arriving in the Pacific Northwest from Alaska and the Southeast.
Local agencies not at draw-down levels
Half of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews responsible for fires in Nevada County are out of the area, according to a dispatcher at Calfire’s Interagency Command Center in Grass Valley.
Ten engines and 35 fire personnel are assigned to the Hawken Fire southwest of Reno.
One local Calfire crew went to battle a fire at Camp Far West in Placer County.
A dozen chiefs and captains have been assigned elsewhere as fire resources, the dispatcher said.
Tim Fike, Fire Chief of Nevada County Consolidated Fire is stationed in Northern California near Happy Camp in the Klamath National Forest, where more than 8,000 acres have burned.
Last week, Fike was deputy incident commander for a fire outside Winnemucca, Nev., he said.
The Tahoe National Forest has sent about 100 out its 200 year-round and seasonal personnel to Nevada and Idaho, Modoc National Forest and Klamath National Forest in Northern California and Los Padres National Forest in Southern California, forest spokeswoman Ann Westling said. Another team has been dispatched to the Antelope Fire in Plumas County to help with emergency rehabilitation in burned areas.
This year is the worst wildfire season she has seen in 27 years of working for the forest service because of excessively low vegetation moisture, Westling said.
Despite the aid being sent by local agencies, enough firefighters remain to fight a fire if one strikes Nevada County, because the surrounding resources are strong, local officials said.
“There’s people all over the state we can call,” said Battalion Chief Chris Desena of Calfire’s Grass Valley Interagency Emergency Command Center. “We’re not to draw-down levels yet.”
“We still have a good compliment of firefighters,” Westling added. “I doubt that we would send anymore off the forest. We want to keep at least half to provide service here.”
Dry lightning has sparked dozens of new blazes in the West including more than 1,000 new fires since Monday, the national fire center’s Eardley told The Associated Press.
In Nevada, the Hawken Fire threatened hundreds of homes on the edge of Reno but weather and wind conditions there were improving Thursday. It was about 15 percent contained.
In Southern California, authorities were trying to stop a 43-square-mile wildfire from spreading toward about 50 scattered homes in Los Padres National Forest in the interior of Santa Barbara County.
In Northern California, mid-week drizzle helped firefighters battling flames that threatened more than 300 homes in and around Happy Camp near the Oregon border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4231.
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