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Utah Firefighters Head To California

Kevin Gill
Flickr Creative Commons
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had declared emergencies in four southern California counties because of wildfire by Friday afternoon. This is a picture of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County.

Utah fire agencies are helping fight the devastating wildfires in southern California.

Firefighters from throughout Utah reported for duty at the Lilac Fire outside San Diego on Friday. About 100 Utah firefighters - including some from Layton, Draper, Cedar City and Provo - will be tackling the blazes for up to two weeks.

“It’s one of those things where, hey, we have a resource, it’s available, and we’re happy that we have people to send, to go help a state in need,” says Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

He says it’s the fourth time this year that Utah emergency crews helped out with disasters in other states thanks to what’s known as the nationwide “Emergency Management Assistance Compact.”

It’s a mutual aid association that’s been tapped for hurricanes, like Harvey and Irma, and the California wildfires in October. Some Utah crews are still assisting with the Puerto Rico hurricane cleanup through a similar organization.

Dougherty says Utah is about 49th out of 50 for major disaster declarations in the United States and, so far, Utah’s hasn’t had to call in emergency crews from other states under the compact.

“We know that other states would be available if their resources were needed here,” he says. “Sometimes you give and sometimes you get.”

Dougherty says Utah benefits from helping out in situations like this because firefighters get training and experience that they can apply at home.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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