Crews from Lower 48 arrive to battle McHugh Creek Fire
The reinforcements are here — an additional 100 firefighters in five crews from the Lower 48 arrived in Anchorage on Wednesday afternoon to battle the McHugh Creek Fire. Officials with the Alaska Division of Forestry said this is the first time this year they’ve had to call for out-of-state help.
The new crews are from Chico and Tahoe, California. When they arrived in Anchorage, they went straight from the airport to the University of Alaska Anchorage, where they were briefed about what makes fighting wildland fires in Alaska different than most places. The crews have spent most of the summer on assignment in Southern California and most members said they’ve never fought fires in the 49th state before.
Firefighter Nick Gillott said he’s proud to be in Alaska and looks forward to getting the job done.
“We like being in the mountains, being in the trees, working with chainsaws, working with tools, putting out fires,” he said. “Having an opportunity to come up here and be in the real wilderness and fight real fires is something to be excited about for sure.”
Hotshot crews, or Type I crews, are among the most highly trained wildland firefighters in the nation. Alaska fire support forester Martin Maricle said the men and women are in peak physical condition and are trained to work in the type of difficult terrain they’ll encounter around McHugh Creek.
“We always try to use Alaskan resources first and in this case, the Alaskan crews that are of the same caliber have already been used on fires and they’re already out on the fires,” Maricle said. “Given the resources at stake, the high values at risk, it was important to us to get crews in there that could do the job with minimum supervision.”
The Lower 48 crews will begin their work on the McHugh Creek Fire on Thursday morning.
A typical wildland firefighting assignment is 14 days, but Maricle said he hopes it won’t take nearly that long to put out the fire.
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