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HIGHLAND — Three firefighters from the Lone Peak Fire District left before the crack of dawn Sunday to help fight a California blaze fueled by historically strong winds.
The firefighters hit the road before about 5 a.m. in answer of a call for assistance in Sonoma County, where the 30,000-acre Kincade Fire threatens Healdsburg. Winds clocked at 96 mph in the Mayacamas Mountains caused the fire to flare overnight, prompting evacuations in Santa Rosa and west to Bodega Bay, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In a Facebook post Sunday, the Lone Peak Fire District thanked the three firefighters — Deputy Chief Chris Evans, engine boss and firefighter Chris Willden, and firefighter paramedic John Grayson Pollock — “as well as their families, for taking the time to help our neighbors in need.”
“We enjoy serving others, and these individuals have a strong desire to serve and help other people, whether it’s here or out on a deployment,” Chief Reed Thompson told the Deseret News Sunday. “They look forward to the opportunity to serve, do a good job and represent our department well.”
The trio was expected to arrive in Sonoma County at roughly 8 p.m. Sunday, Thompson said. The deployment is estimated to be 14 days plus travel time, so in total 16 or 17 days.
The deployment comes more than a year after one Utah firefighter, Draper Battalion Chief Matt Burchett, 42, lost his life while fighting fires in California. Burchett’s widow is now suing Cal Fire and the aircraft company, alleging her husband was killed when a supertanker dropped nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant near his position, uprooting an 87-foot tree that fell on Burchett.
Thompson said there’s always “some inherent risk” when fighting wildfires, but “we believe our crew maintains safe operations.” The trio are “all experienced firefighters, and we feel they’ll do a great job for us,” he said.
Lone Peak Fire District is continuing to develop a wildfire program within its department, Thompson said, “so we look forward to the opportunity to build that program but still be able to serve another community that’s in need.”
“We hope that we never have the need in our community,” he said, “but at the same time know that if we did, we’d have others to respond back to help us as well.”