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Utah crews hit road to help tackle California fires

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SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 80 Utah firefighters were making their way to Southern California Thursday to help battle several blazes that have burned more than 150 square miles, swallowed portions of roads and forced 200,000 to evacuate.

Seventy-eight firefighters from Layton to Provo took off before dawn. They met first at Provo's Towne Centre Mall, then joined wildland fire crews in St. George before heading to California.

The Utah crews had yet to receive their assignments Thursday, said Unified Fire Authority spokesman Matthew McFarland.

"We're prepared for just about anything," he said.

The 12 Utah departments are among hundreds of outside agencies helping to battle wildfires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

For many in the Utah group, it's a return to California just months after they helped combat devastating blazes in Napa and Sonoma counties in the northern part of the state.

"It was devastating," said Krista Spraycar of the Uintah City Fire Department. "We're happy to go help them again."

She and her colleagues are set to stay for two weeks, though that timeline could change depending on their progress.

California's firefighters have struggled to contain the blaze as hurricane-strength winds rip through canyons. Authorities have ordered evacuations for more than 200,000 people.

Winter is not typically a busy season for the Utah teams, McFarland noted.

"We normally are really busy in the summer," he said, "but not in December."

On Friday, more resources from the Beehive State are expected to follow.

An air tanker from Spanish Fork also was set to arrive in California Friday morning. And Provo will be sending more fire and rescue workers, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said in a prepared statement on Thursday.

"We appreciate the willingness to sacrifice shown by these dedicated public servants and will be praying for their safe return," Kaufusi said.

Contributing: Caitlin Burchill


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