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4:45 AM Wed, Dec. 12th

Area firefighters lend aid to California wildfire victims

From left, Buckskin firefighter Todd Honomichl, firefighter Tyler Kowalski and Lt. Jason Weatherford pose for a photo before their deployment to assist with California wildfires this month. (Courtesy photo)

From left, Buckskin firefighter Todd Honomichl, firefighter Tyler Kowalski and Lt. Jason Weatherford pose for a photo before their deployment to assist with California wildfires this month. (Courtesy photo)

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Several Arizona fire crews have already been assigned to battle the 70,000-acre Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties (U.S. Forest Service photo)

LAKE HAVASU CITY – The National Weather Service offered a bleak outlook on Monday, advising that high winds, dry air and low humidity will likely accelerate the fires’ spread throughout Northern and Southern California this week. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management this weekend announced the deployment of 144 Arizona firefighters and 42 fire engines to assist California fire departments – including Buckskin firefighters Jason Weatherford, Tyler Kowalski and Todd Honomichl. Also among their number are Desert Hills firefighters David Rodriguez, Bryant Stanec and Nicolaas Wijngaarden.

“We don’t go into California too often, but now they’re in such dire need,” said Desert Hills Fire Captain Ryan Erickson. “They usually handle their wildfires pretty well, but this time they’re so extensive that they need help.”

According to Forestry and Fire Management Public Affairs Outreach Officer Tiffany Davila, the majority of Arizona firefighters in California will await assignments in Southern California. They will be tasked with offering backfill for California fire departments, wildfire suppression or staging for new fires that could spread due to adverse weather conditions. Several Arizona fire crews have already been assigned to battle the 70,000-acre Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Davila said.

The Woolsey Fire was 20-percent contained as of Monday, prompting the evacuations of more than a dozen communities.

As Southern California faces the Woolsey Fire, other Northern California communities remain at risk as well. The Camp Fire has consumed more than 110,000 acres in the area of Butte County, destroying 6,453 residences and 260 commercial properties, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Lake Havasu City resident Velma Urbina, a native of Butte County, was planning to return home for Thanksgiving. With her home city of Chico evacuated and under threat, however, she began a fundraising effort this week to offer aid to the Camp Fire’s victims.

“I know a lot of people who have been affected by the fire,” Urbina said. “It’s what moved me to start this drive. Trucks are going to take donations to California, and the Women with Willpower group is doing something as well. Facebook is blowing up.”

Urbina will be accepting donations of bottled water, juice, non-perishable foods, baby formula, baby bottles, baby food, pet food, clothing, blankets, shoes, sleeping bags, tents, toiletries, diapers and medical supplies. She will also accept monetary donations, which will be converted to pre-paid credit cards to be donated to victims later this month.

“There are a lot of hands involved in this, and our entire staff is helping,” Urbina said Monday.

Donations will be accepted 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Nov. 20 at Gem’s Assisted Living’s 2136 Senita Drive location.