Idaho crews to help battle massive California fires

Posted at 3:01 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 17:01:09-04

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho fire crews and equipment have been sent to help the firefighting efforts in California.

“So far, we’ve sent a total of 57 fire personnel, mostly in support of the Kincade fire,” said National Interagency Fire Center Public Affairs Specialist Carrie Bilbao.

“We’ve sent twelve engines, one water tender, eight overhead personnel (helicopter managers, task force managers, and air tactical group supervisors), and one fixed wing aircraft, mainly from fire departments and agencies in eastern Idaho. Those include the Sawtooth National Forest, the Gooding Rural Fire Protection District, the Madison Fire Department, and agencies in the Idaho Falls area,” she said.

Crews from southwest Idaho could also be sent, should California crews request additional help through the state’s mutual aid agreement.

Fueled by winds which at times have reached some 100 miles an hour, the massive Kincade Fire has thus far burned some 66,000 acres in Sonoma County, in California’s lush wine country, about seventy miles north of San Francisco.

During the night Sunday, firefighters made an aggressive effort against the blaze, fearing it would reach the town of Windsor. The community's 28,000 residents have been evacuated.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Jonathan Cox said Monday that firefighters brought in what he called “significant resources” to fight the wildfire.

Ryan Walbrun of the National Weather Service said an improved weather outlook should help firefighters.

The fire started last week and has been fanned by extremely heavy winds. It has destroyed 96 buildings so far and threatens 80,000 structures in several wine country communities.

It was only five percent contained. Nearly 200,000 people remain under evacuation orders because of fire threat.

Meantime, fifteen wildfire strike teams from Oregon fire departments are also on the way to help battle the California wildfires.

California fire officials requested Oregon assistance through a state-to-state mutual aid system Sunday morning. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a statewide emergency as crews battle blazes in Northern and Southern California.

In Southern California, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the wildfire in the city's western neighborhoods has scorched more than 600 acres, but its growth has slowed.

Garcetti says the evacuation area has been slightly reduced -- after stretching from the Brentwood area down to Pacific Coast Highway in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood area early Monday. The earlier evacuation orders affected 10,000 homes and businesses.

Homes have burned since the fire erupted around 1:30 a.m. and was swept by Santa Ana winds into canyons and ridgetop neighborhoods, but there's still no exact count of how many were destroyed.

Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas says his firefighters had to make tough choices about which homes could be saved.

Garcetti says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

(Associated Press contributed to this story)