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Delaware sends wildfire crew to California to join national firefighting effort

Firefighter Helmet DE
Quinn Kirkpatrick
/
Delaware Public Media

Almost 2 weeks ago, a wildfire was reported in Klamath National Forest. Since then, the McKinney Fire in Northern California has grown to over 60,000 acres.

And Tuesday, Delaware sent a 20-person type 2 Initial Attack wildland fire crew to help fight the blaze.

Kyle Hoyd is the Delaware Wildland Fire Supervisor. He says the group heading out has varying levels of experience, and some rookies will get additional training from fellow crew members during this job.

“They’re trained all by the Delaware Forest Service. They hold national certifications and qualifications through the National Wildland Fire Coordination Group, which is the NWCG,” said Hoyd. “We’re actually the only agency in the state that teaches those classes, so yeah we’ve taken all these folks on and they’ve taken us on, essentially.”

Hoyd will work from Delaware to make sure everything runs smoothly as the team makes the 4-day drive to California this week.

The terrain in Northern California is particularly difficult, with topographic hazards, an unstable atmosphere, and hot, dry, and windy conditions making it hard to contain the fire.

Erich Berkentine is the Regional Fire Management Officer for the Delaware Forest Service, and the crew leader for this assignment. This is Berkentine’s 22nd year fighting wildfires across the country, and he says this area in California is very difficult to navigate.

“It’s really hard to tell how it’s going to be. There’s actually 79 crews on the fire, which is astronomical as far as like personnel is concerned,” explained Burkentine. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many crews on one fire. But that probably has a lot to do with just the remote nature of that fire, and the difficulty of terrain, and just getting people in certain places and not spreading them out too far.”

He adds it’s important to keep people close in order to put a control liner on the over 60,000 acres that the fire has spread to, which is a big feat.

The Delaware crew will work for 16 hours each day for a minimum of 14 days to help put the McKinney Fire out.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021