CEDAR CITY, Utah -- A group of southern Utah firefighters are among the thousands helping to battle wildfires in Washington State. City officials made the decision to send four firefighters to help after a plea from FEMA for extra assistance.
Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips said it was an easy decision to make, as this is what the firefighters have trained for. Two full time and two part time firefighters left August 21 and have been assigned to the Okanogan Complex Fire.
“The decision was really based on the fact that, we’re here to help people,” Phillips said. “They’re prepping the neighborhoods so if the fire makes it there. It’s not the most glorious job, but they’re making a big difference up there.”
The Okanogan Complex Fire is the largest burning in Washington State. It’s already destroyed 40 homes and has burnt through more than 280,000 acres of land. Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson says it’s a bit nerve wrecking to send their firefighters so far from home, but she’s proud they wanted to serve.
“It truly shows the character of our community that we have these four--they’re willing to take their time and sacrifice,” Wilson said.
FEMA sent out the call for assistance last week, after Washington State declared a federal disaster emergency. The four firefighters are on an 18-day deployment. Phillips says the experience is also one they’ll be able to benefit from.
“They’re going to be able to bring back things that they’ve learned on the fire,” Phillips said. “Maybe be able to bring back how to structure triage, we’ve never done structure triage.”
The crew is keeping everyone back home updated on their progress and safety through social media. The Cedar City Fire department posts regular updates on their Facebook page. Comments have been very supportive from residents. Wilson says she’s even heard from Washington State residents expressing their gratitude.
“The guys have a phenomenal attitude, the people up in Washington State are so appreciative,” Wilson said.