Four Alaska firefighters dispatched to battle California blazes

Homes and palm trees burn in the Creek Fire outside of Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2017. (Los Angeles Fire Department)

Four Alaska wild fire professionals are working on blazes in southern California.

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Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says the Alaskans deployed south have special skills.

“One is an emergency firefighter who went down as a near-operations branch director,’ Mowry said. “Two of them went down as prevention technicians and one of them went down as a status check-in recorder.”

Mowry says most Alaska wild firefighters take the winter off, and the four in California this month, notified agencies they were available to work.

”Alaska’s not received an order for any crews or modules yet,” Mowry said. “They did express a little bit of interest, and we’re in the process right now of trying to see who’s available and how many people we have that are available that we could send down there if they did put an order in. But so far, it’s been a pretty limited specialty positions that they’ve requested.”

Mowry says it’s the latest that Alaska fire fighters have gone south to work, noting that fire seasons have been extending longer in recent years.

”Like last year’s burst of fires they had in Southeast U.S. where we sent over a hundred people down, but that was mid-November,” Mowry said. “So at this time of year in mid-December, it’s very unusual. But, it is a sign that, what we’ve been seeing the last few years, is that things are changing and the fire season’s getting longer in Alaska, but it’s now almost a year-round deal in California.”

The current wildfires in the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas, follow even more devastating blazes that killed 42 people and destroyed or damaged 14,000 homes in northern California in October.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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