PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - More than 240,000 acres are burning across the state as thousands of firefighters are on the frontlines, bouncing from one fire to the next.
"It's safe to say there's thousands of firefighter personnel that are working these fires, then you have to include the overhead. So thousands of people are assigned to all of these incidents across the state," said Tiffany Davila, the public affairs officer for the Department of Forestry and Fire Management. "Resources from not only in the state, but out of state as well are here to help, they have been pre-positioned in the state since about April."
Davila says resources are thing, but they are managing. Each crew, aircraft, and other pieces of equipment are prioritized depending on the fire. If lives or structures are threatened, that fire will take priority. "It's kind of like a puzzle where we're playing the game and we're trying to fit which piece goes where," Davila said.
Davila says there are 1500 firefighters between the Telegraph, Backbone, and Pinnacle Fires alone. Though there are resources from out of state assisting in the fires, Davila said it's not likely we'll see more coming in anytime soon.
"We're not sending anybody out of state at this point. Some of those other states are getting to that point where the resources that are here from out of state can stay here, but it's not likely we will be able to get any other resources from other states, only because those states are now actively burning," Davila said. "Those states that are now starting to burn have to keep their resources in their state, just like we have to keep our resources here until we become less active."
Crews that are on the frontlines are split between day and night shifts, often working 14 days in a row before taking a mandatory 2-day break and getting moved onto the next fire.
"There's no break for anybody at this point. We've had our crews come off the Telegraph, they're on their second day of the two days mandatory rest and they'll be back out on the next incident, wherever that may be, tomorrow," Davila explained. "Some of these hand crews have to hike in miles with 45lbs of gear and their tools on their back before they begin suppression efforts. So it's a grueling, daunting task."
At least 8 of the new wildfires were sparked by lightning over the weekend. Several others are still under investigation and likely human-caused. Davila says it's up to everyone to make sure we don't make matters worse.
"We can only control the human activity, we can't control mother nature," Davila said. "We just really need to be careful. We really need to ask for the public's help, to please pay attention to what they're doing when they're working outdoors, abide by those fire restrictions and now those closures that are coming down the pipeline."
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- Peter Valencia, The Associated Press
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