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California Fire Crews Are Stretched Thin And Competing For Resources

BUTTE COUNTY (CBS13) — Hot and windy weather is making current California fires worse, causing firefighters to struggle to get the resources they need.

On the front lines of the Bear Fire in Butte County, the situation is dire.

"Our situation over the last 36 hours has been dangerous, deadly, and extremely destructive," said Cal Fire Butte Unit Chief John Messina.

"Mutual aid resources that are typically available to come into this county and help us out aren't available," Messina said. "Every county in California is experiencing a similar situation."

Cal Fire spokesperson Daniel Berlant said the agency is down 2,000 firefighters from last month.

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"We are constantly reprioritizing our fires and constantly moving our fire equipment and aircraft fire to fire, where the need is," Berlant said.

A spokesperson for the U.S Forest Service said this creates a situation where "everyone is competing for resources," but "Northern California is the highest priority."

Over half of the 25,000 fire personnel assigned to large fires in the U.S are in California. Of 11,500 U.S. Forest Service personnel, 6,300 are fighting fires in California.

This comes as high winds and heavy smoke have made firefighting aircraft useless in some cases, leaving ground crews as the only option.

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"The fire retardant, the water, it never hits the ground. The wind just carries it away and it dissipates," Berlant said.

Under this amount of strain, firefighters said they need people to leave their homes when they're told to.

"When we talk about evacuations, every single fire crew, bulldozer, and fire engine becomes a premium resource as we need to use those premium resources where they are most effective," Messina said.

California's call for help now involves five states and Canada. Idaho, Texas, and New Mexico have sent 20 fire engines. Illinois and Utah have sent aircraft.

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