More Utah firefighters depart to battle blazes in California

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly 50 Utah firefighters are in Grass Valley, California, to receive orders on where they are needed most to stop the deadliest fire in California’s history.

The group left Saturday morning from Salt Lake City and will be joining more than 30 firefighters who left a day earlier.

The Utah firefighters responded shortly after California Governor Jerry Brown put out a request for assistance from all Western states. The Utah teams do not know their final destination or their duties.

“Utah has risen up and we are going to go help them out,” said Eric Holmes, Unified Fire Department PIO. “We could be fighting wildland fires. We could be fighting structure fires. We could be answering 911 calls. We could be looking for missing people. The reality is we are ready for it.”

West Valley City firefighter Bret Rosenkratz and all of the firefighters volunteered to leave their families for up to three weeks.

“It’s hard leaving my wife and kids for that long,” Rosenkrantz said. “It will be hard on them and hard on me, but we know there’s some sacrifice to be made to give a hand to our other firefighter brothers and the citizens of California.”

The Utah firefighters are leaving their homes and likely the comforts of home.

“It’s really unknown where we’re going or where we are staying,” said Austin Rukoutis of the South Jordan Fire Department. “I have a sleeping bag ready and I heard people are staying at gas stations, on lawns, pretty much anywhere.”

California also needs fire equipment. Utah is sending 31 fire engines to help end the inferno in the Golden State.

Here is the list of Utah fire departments that sent crews on Saturday: Salt Lake City, Unified Fire Authority, Provo, West Valley City, West Jordan, South Jordan, Draper and Pleasant Grove.

Here is the list of Utah fire departments that sent help on Friday: The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands; Cedar City, Hurricane City, Washington City Engine, Uintah County Engine, State of Utah, Richfield City, Salina City, Juab County, Sanpete County, Gunnison City, Layton, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Juab County and the Twin Peaks Hand Crew.

Utahns are also being asked to help offer financial relief for California fire victims. Go Fund Me has gathered a number of crowd-sourcing campaigns. Other opportunities include the Sonoma County Resilience Fund and the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund.