The Bigfork Fire Department joined a host of Montana agencies sending crew and equipment to help fight wild land fires in California. Three Bigfork firefighters and one wildland engine departed Monday, Oct. 28, and arrived in the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California. This year marks the third consecutive year the department has contributed resources to California. Bigfork is among a host of Montana agencies that answered Gov. Steve Bullock’s call for help via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement among states. The firefighters will be in California for a minimum of 14 days, with the option to extend their deployment to 21 days if conditions intensify.
“That hasn’t happened yet — it’’s gotta really be bad before they extend,” Bigfork Fire Chief Mark Thiry said. “But you never know.”
As of noon Thursday the firefighters had just received their orders. Bigfork isn’t the only local department headed south — crew from fire departments in Evergreen, Marion and Whitefish will also be joining the multi-state effort.
Thiry said the deployment is beneficial to his crew, giving them experience working in a large-scale operation, battling a serious blaze.
The Kincade Fire, west of Sacramento, has torched 78,000 acres and claimed 374 buildings, but is nearly under control at 80% containment as of Nov. 4. Several other fires have emerged in the past month, threatening hundreds of homes and prompting thousands to evacuate. While firefighters are getting these blazes under control, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Santa Ana winds are due for a resurgence next week, and hot, dry weather conditions are also forecast, increasing the risk for wildfires.
“We’re proud of the dedication of those individuals to want to go that far from home and get put in harms way and do their job,” Thiry said. »