Wallow Fire: More firefighters on the way

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on June 8, 2011 at 7:44 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 9 at 3:40 PM

MESA, Ariz. – Twenty more crews – nearly 300 people -- from out of state are on their way to join the battle against the massive Wallow Fire that’s burning in the White Mountains in eastern Arizona.

Those crews from Montana, Oregon and Idaho will pass though Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Phoenix.

As fire information officer Troy Waskey explained, firefighters can only work for so long before they need to rest. Crews get a break every 14 days. The Wallow Fire started on May 29, so the firefighters, who have been working in shifts around the clock, are approaching time for mandatory rest.

“It takes a lot out of these firefighters to give it all they’ve got for 14 days straight,” Waskey said. “In order to keep things going, we have to pull in crews from all over the county. ... The safety of the fire crews is the most important thing."

Crews coming in Wednesday will not only rotate in to replace some of the firefighters who have been on the lines of the Wallow Fire, they will also gear up for the “next event.”

“We really can’t afford to put everything we have on everything that comes up,” Waskey said. “We’ve got to hold back some strategic reserves for initial attack for things that do come up.”

Waskey pointed out that some of the crews working the Wallow Fire are already on their third of fourth assignment of the season and it's only early June.

"We're expecting a very busy fire season," he said.

Some Colorado firefighters are also on their way to the Wallow Fire.

The Eagle River Fire Protection District in Eagle County said Wednesday that it's sending two firefighters and a water tanker to the blaze for up to two weeks.

Four firefighters from the North Metro Fire Rescue in Broomfield County will also head to Arizona for up to two weeks. Officials said a reserve fire engine was sent Tuesday.

In addition to the out-of-state crews, the Phoenix Fire Department sent four engines and 17 firefighters to eastern Arizona. They have been assigned to structure protection.

A team of 80 firefighters has also been deployed. They arrived Tuesday after a two-day road trip.

Nine Glendale firefighters and five Surprise firefighters also responded to the area and the Arizona National Guard is supporting firefighters at the Wallow Fire with three 2,500-gallon fuel tankers and its associated crew. The Surprise fire department also deployed a Type III fire engine and a tanker truck with 2,000 gallons of water.

Deputies and volunteers from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office are also heading to the area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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