Utah firefighters put in long hours to fight fires in state, Western U.S.

Jul 2, 2018, 7:01 PM | Updated: 9:17 pm

OGDEN, Utah – With more than a dozen human-caused fires in Utah and many wildfires in the Western United States, firefighters around the state have kept busy, pulling long-hours on deployments away from home.

Fire truck engineer James Martinez was at home with the Weber Fire District Monday, but realized he may soon be deployed once again to help with wildfires around the west. He has already deployed to fires in Texas and to the Trail Mountain fire in Emery County.

“It puts a little bit of a strain, because you know what you’re going to have to do,” Martinez explained. “You’re coming back, getting everything cleaned up, all your equipment, and then knowing that you’re probably going to have to go back out again.”

Some of the dry fuels in a fireworks restricted area, just east of Weber State University.

Martinez was part of one of four crews from Weber Fire District that help with wildfires both close to and away from home. Crews typically put in a 14-day rotation before coming home to be replaced by the next crew. Captain Rick Cooper, who serves as Fire Warden in Weber County, said the 2018 fire season got an early start, and was expected to end later than usual.

Captain Rick Cooper (left), and James Martinez (right), look over some equipment at the Weber Fire District main station on Monday, July 2, 2018.

“The conditions are extremely dry,” Cooper said. “We had a below average snow pack. Our snow pack left sooner than normal, which left our vegetation in very dire need of water.”

He warned that gunfire, vehicles over brush, and fireworks could all very easily spark a large wildfire.

“We are hotter and dryer than we were a year ago,” Cooper said. “People need to be cautious.”

While wildfire crews can often put in 16-hour long days. Martinez explained that they are often willing to do much more when the circumstances call for it, as he recently experienced in Texas.

“It ended up being a 36-hour shift,” Martinez recalled. “We had to work days, and then they asked us to do structure protection at night.”

He also added that the conditions were very volatile, and that many wildfires are preventable.

“Humidity’s been really low,” Martinez said. “Just feeling it on your skin, and the temperatures. Just looking at the vegetation too, you can tell that it’s really dry out there.”

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Utah firefighters put in long hours to fight fires in state, Western U.S.