About 20 local firefighters and five engines are headed to Arizona to help fight what is one of the largest single fires on record.
Arizona crews are struggling to contain the Rodeo Fire near Show Low, Ariz., a 300,000-acre behemoth blaze that destroyed more than 300 homes and forced the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents in eastern Arizona.
A strike force from Carson City, Storey County, North Lake Tahoe and the Nevada Division of Forestry left Monday evening on a 20-hour drive to Arizona. The loan of Nevada firefighters could last up to 21 days, said Carson City Battalion Chief Stacey Giomi.
Carson City, Lake Tahoe and NDF are each sending a structure fire engine and four firefighters while Storey County is sending both a structure and brush engines, Storey County Fire Capt. Milt Hendrickson.
It is fairly common among fire agencies to swap crews and equipment for jobs, but Giomi said this is one of the farthest trips his department been asked to make to help fight a fire.
"Fire service for hundreds of years has been based on one fire department helping another," he said. "It's hard to imagine that kind of destruction; 300,000 acres is incomprehensible. The number of people it takes to control a fire like that is mind boggling. There are not enough federal employees in Arizona to take care of that fire."
Each agency is reimbursed for the cost of its firefighters and equipment, as well as the extra staff needed to cover for the personnel on loan, Giomi said. Bob Ashworth, NDF fire program coordinator, said Western Nevada wouldn't suffer from the loss of fire personnel in the event of a fire close to home.
"We are at a state of readiness here in Nevada, and we need to consider hard before we send resources out of the state," he said. "We have done that. That's why there is the disbursement of resources rather than just one agency.
"We've got to be willing to help our fellow states. Nevada has been on the receiving end many, many times."
Norb Szczurek, acting battalion chief at North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, said his firefighters were "cautiously excited" about helping on the fire.
"People need help, and we're in a position where we can provide some resources without depleting fire protection services," Szczurek said.
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