Three fire departments in El Paso County are providing personnel and resources as part of a nationwide effort to combat a rash of wildfires in northern California and southern Oregon.
Assigned to California are four firefighters and a vehicle from Black Forest; the same from Wescott; and two firefighters and a vehicle from Green Mountain Falls. The Black Forest firefighters left Friday afternoon. The other two departments left Thursday.
The firefighters will spend at least two weeks in California, working daily 12-hour shifts. They'll work on the July Complex, a group of more than two-dozen fires between Redding and the Oregon border.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fires started July 29 after a series of storms produced nearly 1,000 lightning strikes, and an estimated 4,175 acres have burned.
Kathy Russell, public information officer for Black Forest's fire department, said that team will provide structure protection, as it did during the town's devastating wildfire last summer.
"So we know they have a lot to offer the people of California," she said. "They'll learn from this experience and bring back experiences to make us a better department."
Russell said the Forest Service will pay the local firefighters and reimburse the town for personnel and resources provided.
"We can still operate effectively without the four firefighters," she said. "And the timing is right for us because with all the rain recently, our fire danger is low."
Russell said this is only the second time Black Forest firefighters have traveled to another state to help battle wildfires.
An inter-agency dispatch center in Pueblo is coordinating the local effort.