By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Some of the state and federal government’s most highly trained firefighters will put their skills to the test as they travel west to battle wildfires raging in California, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
The 40 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service’s Daniel Boone National Forest and Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky Division of Forestry, and National Park Service Cumberland Gap, gathered in London, where they will be broken up into teams, heading to various states where the annual fire season is rampant.
“It is not unusual for us to send firefighters to the western region,” said Kim Morgan, public relations director for the U.S. Forest Service headquarters out of Winchester. “We got the notification from the National Incident Command Center around 3 p.m. Tuesday and we are shipping two separate teams out today.”
Morgan said the firefighters keep a bag packed for such short notice requests for assistance and those participating in the mission were some of the most highly trained firefighters in the state.
While Leif Meadows, fire management officer with the London Ranger District, briefed the crews about safety and firefighting techniques, Fire Cache Manager Matt Dean and his staff were busy distributing additional supplies the firefighters might need.
Sleeping bags, fire-resistant one-person tents, batteries, water bottles, hard hats, ear plugs, and other items were spread on numerous tables in the Fire Cache building as the men and women who were headed west selected items not already stored in their backpacks.
The U.S. Forest Service Fire Cache (Southern Area Incident Support Cache, or SAK) is one of only 11 national fire cache and the London location serves the southern region comprised of 13 states running from Pennsylvania to Florida and from Virginia to Texas. Dean said the London fire cache sent supplies to Colorado firefighters on Tuesday. The London Fire Cache holds firefighting equipment for 250 firefighters that will serve the first 24 to 36 hours.
“We have eight cache vans and in 2011, we sent every one of them to fight fires in Texas,” Dean said.
The firefighters will spend approximately two weeks in the various sections of the five western states before returning home.