Chapel Hill FD crews among 100s helping fight wildfires

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Chapel Hill FD joins hundreds helping fight wildfires
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Chapel Hill FD sent crews to Western North Carolina

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- They were eager to help anyway, but this is no volunteer mission.

Fire engines and crews from across North Carolina are making their way to the western part of the state as raging wildfires continue to scorch several communities. The latest report from the North Carolina Forest Service identified 28 wildfires, with nearly 46,000 acres already burned.



"That is a tremendous amount of fire in a very rural area that's hard to access," Chapel Hill Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Lawrence explained to ABC11. "It takes a lot of folks, it takes a lot of resources. It's not like our folks going to a house fire and we're only there for an hour or two and the fire goes out."

Chapel Hill Fire Department deployed an engine crew of four firefighters to Rutherford County last Friday, and on Tuesday a second crew left to relieve them. They're all part of a massive statewide force of more than 1,600 firefighters representing almost all of North Carolina's 100 counties.

Read more about the wildfires here.

"With a forest fire, it doesn't stay in one area, it just grows," Chief Lawrence added, "You've got to try to get ahead of the fire and cut fire lines and make fire breaks and make a good stopping place for the fire.

Among the many challenges for firefighters, especially for those from urban departments, is the lack of experience in these types of situations. Plus, there's no real time for training.

"Our folks are out there with shovels and picks digging hard lines," Lawrence told ABC11. "They're climbing steep elevations. We heard from some of our folks that were wearing Fitbits on they walked 14 miles a day during their 12-hour periods."

Click here for a list of fire crews helping out