Local firefighters head to the West Coast to help fight historic wildfires

With historic wildfires raging across the West Coast, reinforcements from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are moving in to help. They’ll join the tens of thousands of firefighters already risking their lives to save homes and businesses in California, Oregon, and Washington.

“Resources are getting really hard to find to be able to staff all these fires,” Chris Robertson said Friday. He’s the state fire supervisor for the Maryland Forest Service, and while he just got home from helping out with wildfires in Texas, he’s also fought fires out west many times before.

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“You know a lot of people have different passions,” he explained, “and for a lot of wildland firefighters, it is a passion because it’s not really glamorous going out and digging in the dirt, sleeping in the dirt, eating in the dirt, but we have firefighters like myself that’s been doing it for 25 years or more and they’re still going strong.”

In fact, personnel from Montgomery County, D.C., Fairfax County, Anne Arundel County, and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency have all volunteered for the incredibly dangerous work.

“I think it’s one of those things where it kind of gets in your blood,” Robertson said when asked why he keeps going back.

And make no mistake, right now the help is desperately needed.

“Typically you’ll have a fire season in Southern California and one in Northern California and they kind of don’t really overlap a whole lot,” Robertson said. “Right now we’re seeing the entire state pretty much on fire as well as up in Oregon and Washington as well.”

Robertson added that all of the work out west benefits people back east as well. Reason being, it’s a great experience and firefighters bring new skills back with them.