San Juan firefighters travel to California to help battle wildfires

  • Tue Oct 29th, 2019 11:57am
  • News

Submitted by San Juan Island Fire and Rescue

Four San Juan Island Fire and Rescue firefighters were deployed as part of a western Washington regional strike team responding to the massive northern California Kincade Fire disaster in Sonoma County, the department announced on Oct. 29.

SJIF&R Chief Norvin Collins said, “Our firefighters train to safely fight wildfires in all conditions so we are ready to serve our Islands’ communities. Throughout our country, the fire service is always ready to serve our neighbors, whether on another island, in another county, or in another state when they call for help in an overwhelming disaster. We are proud and grateful to our firefighters who volunteered to serve on one such disaster.”

Chief Collins added, “At this time of year, especially with the rainfall we have received, our island’s fire danger is extremely low. We have resources available to contribute to assisting this terrible tragedy while maintaining our full capability to respond to any incident in our community.”

The deployed regional strike team comprises firefighters from San Juan, Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties. The strike team will be assigned specific duties upon arrival at the on-scene Incident Command Post. They join strike teams responding from multiple states dispatched through the national mutual aid system, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). SJIF&R, and all other responding agencies are fully reimbursed for the use of crews, equipment, fuel, travel and all other related disaster response costs.

Noel Monin, Fire Operations Assistant Chief of SJIF&R, said, “While serving to support a community overwhelmed by a massive wildfire, deployed fire crews gain extensive experience working with other crews, in different terrain and conditions. They bring these experiences back to our community and help increase our preparedness to serve our community.”

Mutual aid is a critical component of emergency services preparation and disaster response. Communities provide resources they can spare and in turn, when faced by an extended disaster, they call on multiple resources from other communities. In the San Juan Islands, we face multiple natural disaster threats including wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis and storms.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stated the Kincade Fire status is at 15 percent containment with 124 structures destroyed, 23 structures damaged, as of the morning of Oct. 29. There have been no deaths and two injuries reported. The size of the fire is currently 74,234 acres of involved vegetation. There are currently 4,548 personnel assigned with 86 crews; 549 engines; 42 water tenders; 27 helicopters; 66 dozers; and numerous firefighting air tankers flying fire suppression missions as conditions allow.