MARLBOROUGH, Conn. (WTNH) — Fire crews with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection packed up their gear and headed out west Tuesday morning. It’s something very familiar to Connecticut’s own wildfire crews. The 20 men who gathered at DEEP’s Eastern Regional Headquarters in Marlborough Tuesday, have experience fighting flames in Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and California.
They started packing their gear onto trucks before dawn. Those trucks took them to Bradley Airport, where they caught planes to California. Lightning sparked wildfires from California to Oregon, with flames charring thousands of acres and dozens of homes. Fighting those flames is what the men from Connecticut train for every year.
Connecticut is fortunate to not get a lot of big wildfires, but this highly trained team is part of a national mutual aid coalition. Its members go all over the country wherever they’re needed. If a big wildfire did happen in Connecticut, people from all over the country would come here.
These veteran firefighters say there are big differences between battling wildfires in Connecticut versus out west.
“Well the fuels out west are a lot different,” says Matthew Quinn, DEEP Fire Control Officer. “You start seeing flame heights 200-300 feet high.”
“We don’t have as many rattlesnakes as we’re going to see out there,” adds DEEP Firefighter Mike Campi. “We still have the black bears to deal with but there’s mountain lions out there which we don’t have in the state.”
Despite towering flames and dangerous animals, these guys actually want to go battle the elements. Mike Campi even calls it enjoyable.
“I mean, as I say, I get to go out, be out in nature and sleep under the stars for 16 days with a whole bunch of friends,” Campi said. “It’s hard work, but it’s fun.”