From staff, wire reports
CHARLESTON - A team from the West Virginia Division of Forestry is helping battle wildfires in the Rocky Mountains.
Foresters Curtis Helton and Mark Hudnall, along with Boone County volunteer firefighter Benton Dolin, met a force of 17 Delaware firefighters to complete a 20-person crew. The joint Delaware/West Virginia team joins four other 20-person crews in Pennsylvania to create a five-crew module. The module, totaling 100 firefighters, flew to Grand Junction, Colorado, to assist with the suppression of large wildfires threatening the western United States.
The West Virginia/Delaware crew has been assigned to the Wilson fire near Meeker, Colorado.
At last report July 14, the fire involved 350 acres and had been 75 percent contained.
"The West Virginia Division of Forestry is always ready to assist other areas of the country whenever necessary," said State Forester Barry Cook. "Having states work together to share resources is imperative to adequately protecting all citizens and their property. We are hopeful that the wildfires currently threatening our friends out west will be successfully contained and extinguished quickly so that our firefighters will be able to return home to their families soon."
Last week, crews were making progress against dozens of wildfires across California, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, the Associated Press reported.
Out west, dense layers of new grass are providing a "fine fuel" for flames that then gain speed and intensity by moving through "standing dead fuel" made up of vegetation and trees that shriveled during California's six-year drought, said Kathleen Schori with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
"It's difficult to remember a year quite like this one," she told the AP. "There's such a mix of fuels that these large damaging fires are starting at least a month earlier than usual."
The result, she said, could be a longer and more destructive fire season than California has experienced in a while.
The firefighters from West Virginia, who left July 8, were assigned to spend 14 days on the wireline battling the blaze.
As it has in previous years, the Division of Forestry plans to continue dispatching firefighters as long as the need for fire service exists and the resources are available. State fire crew members are trained in firefighting and to meet National Wildfire Coordinating Group standards.