A group of 98 Texas firefighters is flying out Wednesday to aid firefighting crews in California battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history.
Firefighter Kim John Vannatta of the Southlake Fire Department will join two other delegates from the city’s fire department and scores of other Texans reporting for duty Thursday morning.
The Texas team is made up of firefighters from more than 29 fire departments. The North Texas delegation includes firefighters from Dallas, Frisco, Lewisville, Little Elm and Parker County.
The Mendocino Complex Fire north of San Francisco had burned 290,600 acres as of Tuesday and was only 34 percent contained. It has scorched more than 440 square miles and burned 75 homes and isn’t expected to be fully contained until September, fire officials said. Vannatta said the biggest wildfire he has fought is the McDannald Ranch Fire west of Fort Davis that burned about 20,000 acres in May.
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“The immensity of the fire and the organization that it takes to handle an incident of that magnitude are all going to be factors that just make it much more challenging,” Vannatta said.
Vannatta and his crew have been assigned a two-week deployment; three other Southlake responders will relieve them at the end of two weeks. The Southlake Fire Department has made a 28-day commitment.
California requested help from Texas through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMA) which oversees local and out-of-state wildfire deployment.
Chief Steve Pollock, Texas A&M Forest Service and TIFMA representative, said that as of Tuesday all 98 firefighters will be assigned to the Mendocino Complex Fire. But it’s “fairly dynamic” and their assigned location could change after they arrive.
In addition to firefighting personnel, on Tuesday the Texas group sent 25 fire engines with five strike.
The Mendocino fire is made up of two wildfires: the Ranch Fire and the River Fire. Causes for both fires are still unknown.
Almost 4,000 fires were raging across California as of Aug. 5 according to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection.
President Trump tweeted Monday about the California fires, saying they are “being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws.”
Texas continues to fight its own wildfire season with 6,975 wildfires reported already, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.