Local fire crews head to California to help fight wildfires for 2nd time this season
PORTLAND, Ore. – California is in flames for the second time this season and Oregon firefighters are on their way to assist - again.
Even though it’s December, Southern California is seeing Santa Ana wind conditions. The wind helps to heat up the region, and daytime highs have been in the 70s in the Los Angeles area.
Meanwhile, the wind has helped fires that started Sunday and Monday spread rapidly in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.
Now, just like during the Santa Rosa Firestorm of October, California is calling on surrounding states for help using the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. It’s a national state-to-state mutual aid system. But it’s almost unheard of for a state to need the extra help twice in one season.
"Very unprecedented, very unexpected. But, we're just glad to have the opportunity to help them out when they need us,” said Lt. Damon Simmons with Portland Fire and Rescue as he drove with a team to Southern California.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office has mobilized 15 strike teams, consisting of 75 trucks and upwards of 300 firefighters. This is the same number that went to Santa Rosa in October.
Teams from Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Lane, Marion, Linn, Benton, Klamath, Yamhill, Polk and the Rogue Valley areas are all either just arriving or on their way. More were getting set to leave Wednesday. They’ll rendezvous at a place called “Prado” and then get assignments.
Simmons said, “From there, we'll either be assigned to initial attack which is protecting local communities or to the wildfire itself."
The Simmons said they’re not sure how long their assignment will last.
“It could be up to 14 days or even a little bit longer if they have a real serious need," he said.
But right now the need is great, as a new fire popped up Wednesday morning in West Los Angeles.
"Going down to a place that's so resource rich, they have so many firefighters down there. It just really shows the scope of these fires. And we're ready to go do what we can to make a difference," Simmons said.
As of Thursday, California officials report the Thomas Fire is at 96,000 acres and 5% contained, and the Creek Fire is at 12,605 acres and 10% contained.