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Delaware Sending 20-Person Crew Out West To Help Fight Wildfires

SMYRNA, Del. (CBS) -- Delaware is sending a 20-person crew out west to join the fight against wildfires. The Wildland Fire Crew packed up their gear on Wednesday morning in Blackbird State Forest in Smyrna.

"This group will be gone for close to 21 days and where they're going to land each night and sleep, it's an unknown for them," Kyle Hoyd with Delaware Forest Service said.

All packed up and ready to go, but exactly where they'll end up, they don't know

Twenty firefighters from the Delaware Forest Service's initial attack crew have answered the call. They left the Blackbird State Forest in Smyrna on Wednesday afternoon. They're headed to the northern Rocky Mountain region to help with the dozens of wildfires that are burning.

"I knew it was coming as those Montana and Idaho fires just started a couple weeks ago," Bart Wilson, the crew boss, said.

They're called a hand crew, and while they're armed with chainsaws, axes and shovels, they don't have any water. So, they'll be chopping down trees to stop the fires from progressing and fighting the fire with fire.

"Reducing or eliminating fuel is the primary tactic for defeating wildland fire," Sam Topper, senior forester, said. "We can do that physically by cutting it and dragging it, or we can do it just by burning it off."

While they're fighting the fire they can see, they're also fighting what they can't see. This pandemic has changed the way they do their jobs.

During their 21 days away, they'll have to undergo wellness checks that include getting their temperatures taken and they'll be working in groups.

"They're isolated to squads," Hoyd said, "so they'll be working with just a few people, even though it is a 21-person crew."

This is their first assignment this year, but last year, they were called out to help with fires in California and Arizona.

"We want to make sure people remember little old Delaware when we go out west and they do," Wilson said.

As for the location of their final assignment, they won't know that until after they drive the four days to the Rockies.

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