Four North Whidbey firefighters were part of the firefighting effort in California this past week, and smoke from the wildfires has tinged the Whidbey skyline in recent weeks.
The North Whidbey Fire and Rescue crew left last week with an engine to assist in the firefighting efforts along with firefighters from several other agencies from Western Washington, according to Chief John Clark.
The local firefighters were originally assigned to work on the North Complex Fire near Chico, Calif. As of Thursday, the fire has burned more than 316,000 acres and is 79 percent contained since it began in mid-August.
More than 2,000 homes and other structures have been destroyed and 15 people have died as a result of the fire.
Clark said the North Whidbey firefighters had been tasked with protecting homes near the North Complex Fire. They worked in 24-hour shifts. The team committed to a two-week deployment, and with travel days, Clark said the firefighters won’t be back home until Oct. 11.
Now the four are working on the Glass Fire near Santa Rosa, Calif., and Napa Valley. That fire has grown to almost 60,000 acres as of Thursday and is five percent contained. It started Sept. 27.
It is the department’s third deployment this year, Clark said.
North Whidbey crews had also been sent to wildfires in other areas of Washington and Oregon.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue assisted with the out-of-state fires as part of an interstate agreement providing mutual aid. After the fires exceeded local and state capabilities, California was able to call on crews in Washington to help, Clark explained.
Firefighting in California is only different than locally because of the climate, Clark said.
“Depending on where you go, when you start the working conditions are a bit tougher than on the island,” Clark said. “Other than the working conditions, what they’re doing for tactics is no different from what they’d do in Eastern Washington, than what they do in Northern California.”
According to the National Weather Service, a mix of smoke and fog lingered in the air above Western Washington this week resulting from the same fires the North Whidbey crew is working on.
“Haze looks like it might still be an issue as conditions will still be in place to import smoke from (California) wildfires,” according to an area forecast discussion post by the weather service Thursday afternoon.