Firefighters and equipment from Los Angeles and Orange County fire departments are in northern California this weekend helping to battle 18 wildfires that are plaguing areas left tinder dry due to drought conditions.
The Los Angeles Fire Department on Thursday sent a strike team consisting of five engines and about 22 firefighters, including a battalion chief, to the Rocky Fire burning in Lake County, said department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart.
County firefighters have also been deployed on mutual aid assignments up north, although specific details were not immediately available.
One Garden Grove Fire Department engine company has been sent to Eureka to help battle lightning-sparked fires in Six Rivers National Forest and another to the Rocky Fire, where 22,500 acres have been burned with only 5 percent containment, said department Capt. Thanh Nguyen.
“Additional firefighters have been called in to ensure that service remains consistent for the city of Garden Grove,” Nguyen said.
One firefighter has been killed. David Ruhl of Rapid City, South Dakota, went missing Thursday while battling a wildfire in the Modoc National Forest about 100 miles south of Oregon. That fire has burned at least 800 acres.
Ruhl, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, was driving down a road in a vehicle by himself, scouting the area when the then-small fire suddenly expanded, U.S. Forest Information Officer Ken Sandusky said.
Crews fighting the blaze lost communication with him Thursday evening. His body was recovered on Friday, according to Sandusky.
The news of Ruhl’s death came just hours after Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency requiring all state agencies to provide assistance if needed to respond to the fires. Brown also mobilized the California National Guard to help with disaster response.
“California’s severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” Brown said. “Our firefighters are on the front lines and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”
— City News Service