Western Mass firefighters deployed to west coast face tough batt - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Western Mass firefighters deployed to west coast face tough battle

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WESTFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

It has been two-weeks of burning wildfires in Oregon and Washington state.

The fires have left a trail of devastation. What was once people's homes and precious mementos are now charred piles of twisted metal.

They have burned about 900,000 acres in both states.

Crews battling these blazes have now asked for assistance from their fellow firefighters from across the country.

And answering that call is the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

"We have a fire program which provides fire management in the state of Massachusetts," said Dave Celino, chief fire warden for the DCR.  

But now their duties have shifted to the northwest.

On Saturday, the department sent a crew of 20 wild land firefighters to the front lines of these raging fires.

"We train a number of folks who choose to be trained to federal and national standards to fight out-of-state fires," said Celino.

The group also includes five local firefighters from Whately, Westhampton, Holyoke and Deerfield.

"Typically the crews will do 14 days out activity on the fire line," said Celino. 

The troop will be building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires and protecting structures.

Celino said wildfires are very unpredictable and it will not be an easy job.

"It provides some great adventure. The adventure is the attraction, the challenge is the attraction. With that comes a heightened element of safety and danger," explained Celino.  

But with the extensive training and supplies his crew has, Celino said he has no doubt they will do their jobs both efficiently and safely.

"We've had some great success here with the program. A bee sting is the worst injury we've had in the last four years when we sent crews out, and that's a huge success for us," said Celino.  

This is not the first time Massachusetts firefighters have aided in battling wildfires in other parts of the country. Last year, a 20-person crew was sent to Missoula, MT, to help contain several lightning-caused fires.

The Massachusetts firefighters are also being joined by crews from New Hampshire and New York.

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