Thousands, Including Waterloo Twp. Resident, Continue to Battle Relentless Fires

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Firefighters from all over the U.S. traveled to the West Coast to offer their professional training in hopes of ending the recent ongoing wildfires. This includes local teams that have entered the fight as tragedy has hit the wildfire scenes.

Mike Broeker, from Waterloo Township Volunteer Fire Department, says the game has changed after losing three firefighters in a neighboring fire he was helping with in Washington.

The three U.S. Forest Service firefighters worked with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. According to the USDA press release, the firefighters were engaged in initial attack operations and were involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed the fire overtook the vehicle.

“There’s no word on whether they’ll be replaced,” Cathy Dowd, Public Affairs Officer of Okanogan-Wenatchee NF said.

The Stickpin fire in Washington where Broeker and other Ohio volunteers are battling is 41,589 acres long. Firefighters are working on the western side of it which is where homes and private landholdings are. The volunteers are using bulldozers and building lines around the fire to ultimately create a box to contain it.

“We have not lost any homes from our fires and right now we are like every fire in the region are strapped for resources,” Nick Cronquist, Deputy Public Information Officer of Washington Incident Management Team 1, said.

Cronquist says the team is having great success on the western side of the fire, but they are battling three other fires on the eastern side. One of the fires, the Runner Lake fire is approaching the towns of Orient and Barstow, WA.

Greg Guess from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, says ODNR sent about 50 firefighters to the West along with a few federal resources from Ohio.

“There’s not enough firefighters in the West to suppress all the fires when the activity becomes the highest,” Guess said.

Most of the state of Washington and Idaho recently received a red flag warning, meaning erratic fire behavior is potential with the high winds that come over the area.

“We have a number of fires burning in the state of Washington that will be challenging all the fire lines that we have put together with this erratic winds approaching,” Cronquist said.

Due to lack of resources, the Washington Incident Management Team 1 has reached out to their partners in Australia and Canada to help with the “wildfire war.” The crews are expected to arrive next week.

Guess, however, said some of the Ohio workers sent out West came back with success stories.

“Our first hand crew, Ohio State crew number 1, which had 20 people, came back after 14 days on the fire line in Northern California (and) were a big help. They built a lot of line and really helped contained that fire,” Guess said.