Local fire team headed to help fight wildfires in Northern California
AHTANUM, Wash. - Fire season seems to be slowly coming to the end in the state of Washington, but Northern California is experiencing one of its worst fires ever with over 260 square miles burned and tens of thousands of people evacuated.
Jason Horner, Ahtanum hand crew boss, said this is another major blaze the Ahtanum 20 are going to in an already busy year of firefighting.
"This is going to be 26 fires for the crew this year, we are sitting at about 900 hours of overtime so we'll break a thousand hours on top of our 40 a week," he said.
Their previous record was around 600 hours of overtime, but at a thousand hours they will have more than 6 months of 40 hour weeks in overtime by the time they come back.
The team consists of people from all over the state of Washington and a few from the Yakima Valley.
Bravo Squad Boss Ryan Miller said they have mostly been together for the entire season and having that comradery was one of the reasons they are heading out together.
"Not only do you work with these people, you eat with these people and you live with these guys so with a hand crew you get that family bond going on,” he said. “It's almost like siblings."
Miller is from Selah and this will be his first time going out of state with the department of natural resources.
His tours along Jolly Mountain and Norse Peak are among the 26 fires they have been to and they’re starting to feel the effects from the work they've done.
However, that doesn't stop them from moving forward to help those in need.
"Our folks are pretty worn out, but we're all excited to go down and help in do our part down there because it looks like they are lacking in resources," Miller said.
Horner knows his team is mentally and physically strong enough to help, but sometimes you need more than that.
"Everybody's loved ones, significant others, pets, whoever is at home waiting for them. It takes a lot from the home front to keep us moving out here as well," Horner said.
He said having support from the people who are waiting for them to come back home will help them be ready for anything.
At least 27 people have died and at least 3,500 homes have been destroyed from the northern California fires, but the Ahtanum 20 are on their way to help stop any more loses.