Lakeland firefighters helping battle western wildfires

Polk County

Crews battling wildfires out west are getting some help from the Tampa Bay area.     

More than a dozen firefighters from Florida Forest Service Lakeland district, ranging from firefighters to command staff, have been deployed to manage fires in Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, California, Utah, Idaho and Colorado.

“The willingness for our personnel to leave their home and families for a minimum of 14 days and help someone they have never met in another state speaks volumes of the dedication of our firefighters,” Lakeland District Manager Pat Keogh said.

“Anyone who is deployed on an out-of-state assignment makes themselves available to be gone for 14-21 days.”

“It is a little intimidating to go out and just see the power of these fires as they run up mountain sides, something we’re not used to here in Florida,” Florida Forest Service employee Victor Memmoli told WFLA.

“It’s just a whole different way of firefighting that you have to be used to. The people we send out there have a great amount of experience in fighting western fires.”

Memmoli just returned from spending two weeks battling a fire in OregonMemmoli worked 16 hour days helping to manage the fire until it was out.  

“Most of the states have their own management teams, but there are so many fires they can’t possibly manage them, so they have to request help from other states,” Memmoli said.

Memmoli said the recent rains have slowed down Florida’s wildfire season, allowing their crews to lend a helping a hand.  

“It’s great to be able to go out there and help. The people out there are really appreciative. They have signs all over the place posted, ‘thank you fire fighters, we love you.’ It’s heartwarming to see,” he said. 



Some of the fires the Lakeland District’s personnel have been deployed to include the Ferguson Fire, the 34 Complex in Oklahoma and the Coal Hollow fire in Utah.

There are currently over 110 fires burning at this time that have burned more than 1.8 million acres. For more information click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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