Mutual aid helps reduce impact from Hill Fire

Forest Service firefighters respond to wildfire

Mutual aid reduces impact of Hill Fire

SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. - The massive firefighting response to the Hill Fire in San Luis Obispo County by federal, state and local agencies was part of a plan put in place a long time ago just for this type of emergency.

The rapid spread of the Hill Fire on Monday afternoon ignited mutual aid response from federal, state and local firefighting agencies.

"In this case it was moving so fast it was growing faster than our resources could catch up to the flanks of the fire", says U.S. Forest Service Battalion Chief Gary Helming on the response by his agency to the HIll Fire.

More than 100 Los Padres National Forest firefighters were among the multiple agency, mutual aid response that was agreed to long before smoke started showing for the Hill Fire.

"So we go into a mode where we basically try and work as best as we can with flanking the fire with equipment and fire engines", Helming says, "as well as going into a mode where evaluating the public safety, where we're doing structure protection and trying to make sure that we are managing risk to our firefighters and to the public that's in the area of the fire."

Despite the loss of property and animals, the fact that no one was hurt or killed is the desired outcome by the first responders.

"A great example of how our organizations work together is the Hill Fire", Helming says, "a fire that started at 3:30 pm with an initial response from local responders, by 9;00 pm at night we had almost 1200 firefighters from around the Central Coast, from the LA basin, from the Monterey area, all coming in to assist us, based on these pre-planned agreements that we put in place to help ourselves."

Helming says the Forest Service is fully staffed with firefighters in anticipation of a busy fire season in the Los Padres National Forest and the Central Coast.

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