Lake Tahoe firefighters dispatched to wildfires in Southwest | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe firefighters dispatched to wildfires in Southwest

An air tanker drops retardant during suppression efforts for the Highline Fire on the Tonto National Forest near Phoenix, Arizona

With multiple blazes burning in the Southwest, resources form elsewhere in the country, including the Tahoe Basin, are being called in to assist in fire-fighting efforts.

Nearly 600 California-based U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters and support personnel have been mobilized to wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico, according to a press release. The personnel that are part of this mobilization come from all 18 national forests in California (Pacific Southwest Region).

Two local firefighters from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) are currently dispatched to fires near Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

Steve Burns, LTBMU assistant fire management officer, is assigned as an operations chief for the Highline Fire on the Tonto National Forest near Phoenix. The fire, which started June 10, had burned 1,359 acres as of Thursday afternoon.

Phil Heitzke, LTBMU Engine 43 captain, is assigned as a task force leader for the lightening-caused Lizard Fire on the Coronado National Forest near Tucson. As of Wednesday evening the fire had burned 15,212 acres.

Other USFS fire-fighting resources include 19 engines, 18 fire crews (20-person), including three hotshot crews, a helicopter and more than 100 specialists such as dispatchers, safety officers, aviation managers and fire prevention patrols.

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"We have the largest wildland fire response organization in the country," Jeanne Wade Evans, deputy regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region, said in the press release. "We're prepared for our wildfire season in California and have the capacity to provide these national fire-fighting resources to the forests and communities in the Southwest."

California experienced one of the wettest winters on record and fire activity on national forest lands in the state has been minimal thus far.

That heavy winter is expected to delay fire season, although wildfire danger still persists in the Tahoe Basin and beyond, as was previously reported.

The U.S. Forest Service has about 5,000 firefighters in California for the 2017 season.

For interagency wildfire information nationwide, visit InciWeb at inciweb.nwcg.gov/. For additional information on wildfires in the Southwest visit: http://www.wildlandfire.az.gov/ (Arizona) and nmfireinfo.com/ (New Mexico).