Valley Firefighters Mobilize to Chico Fire

6/12/2008 Fresno, CA Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Wednesday, in Butte County because of a wildfire there.

The fire has consumed more than 2,600 acres and forced as many as 1,000 people from their homes. It's burning in a rugged area about 80 miles north of Sacramento near Chico.

About 100 firefighters were battling the flames Wednesday and they will soon get help from DC-10 and DC-7 aircrafts.

The fire is only about 10% percent contained. There's no word on what sparked it.

Dozens of Valley firefighters are heading to Butte County Wednesday night.

Two strike teams gathered in Fresno and one met in Merced before heading north. A total of 64 firefighters and 15 engines are driving to the fire.

Fire officials said this is the largest mutual aid request for the Central Valley so far this year.

Firefighters from across the Valley packed their bags and prepared their engines for what's expected to be a challenging trip to Butte County. "They're going to be driving for at least 8 hours, and they're going to be considered fresh to go out and work on the lines. So these crews that are going tonight are going to be the front line forces for tomorrow," said Chris Christopherson with Fresno Cal Fire.

Merced City Fire Captain Mark Walker is one of about 20 firefighters who met in Merced Wednesday evening. Just hours earlier he helped get control of a fire at an apartment complex that caused nearly a half million dollars in damage and forced several people to evacuate. But that didn't slow him down when the call for help from the Chico area came in. "What we do pre-season is we pack our bags and we're ready to go. Technically we could go at a moment's notice," said Captain Walker.

When these crews arrive in Butte County, they'll have to face steep, rocky terrain along with high temperatures, low humidity and more wind. "There is a red flag warning that goes through Friday morning which means there is a high potential for activity," said Jeremy Rahn with the Atwater City Fire Department.

Firefighters say it's a situation they train for, but safety is always a concern. "They're really gonna have to be aware of each other's safety and the conditions around them to be safe," said Christopherson.

Firefighters from all of the agencies we spoke with said despite the large request, their local areas are still well-covered. They can use reserve engines and call in off-duty and volunteer firefighters if necessary.

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