Three Los Pinos ambulances, six crew members, and an Upper Pine ambulance with two firefighters have been deployed to work at the wildfires in California, but they might be sent back home soon unless they get re-assigned to a fire crew.
An Upper Pine wildland truck and three crew left to fight fires on Sunday and should be arriving in the state soon.
The ambulances left Wednesday for California and so far haven’t been on any calls there, although they had prepared to help evacuate 4,000 patients from a Veterans Administration facility, said Los Pinos Deputy Chief Kevin Ratzmann. The building was protected by firefighters and did not burn.
The ambulance crews are currently at Travis Air Force Base, near Fairfield, close to the Oakland area. Ratzmann is leading a strike team of five ambulances.
Tim Batchelor, wildland division chief for Los Pinos, also is running a fire division fighting one of the fires, which have devastated parts of central California.
Other Los Pinos staff working in California are Tyrun Harris, Kevin Griego, Dakota Ballew, Dom Marquez and Mike Valdez.
Upper Pine staff on site are Isaac Portz and Will Shoesmith.
The crews have been praised for their professionalism and leadership, said Ratzmann, who was reached by cellphone in California.
“Our guys are representing their community extremely well,” he said. “Our community should be proud of them.”
The fires have burned 220,000 acres. At least 40 people have died, 100 have been injured and thousands are homeless. About 11,000 firefighters continue to battle the remaining flames and look for survivors.
The local crews are among more than 100 ambulances deployed to work at the fires in California.
When they first arrived in California, the smoke conditions were severe, Ratzmann said. An approaching storm is bringing winds, which have cleared the skies, but also is expected to bring lightning, with no precipitation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is shutting down some of its efforts, Ratzmann said, citing a cost of $30,000 per week for each ambulance. All of the local staff brought their own firefighting equipment, so they hope to be reassigned to fight fires.
The Upper Pine fire crew is being headed by Josh Schmidt, and he’s with two seasonal wildland firefighters, said Bruce Evans, chief of Upper Pine Fire.
Fire districts are reimbursed for equipment and personnel costs when they send their staff to other states. The Upper Pine firetruck is being sent to California under the state emergency management office, he added. The Upper Pine firefighters are heading to Chino, Calif.
More than 100 firetrucks from Colorado have been requested to continue battling the fires.