New Jersey fire crews fighting raging wildfires on West Coast

MAYS LANDING, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A group of firefighters with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service are arriving home after two weeks on the West Coast battling raging wildfires.

Unprecedented fires raging out of control have left behind devastating losses to life and property. The fires are being driven by strong dry offshore winds.

"Yesterday, the winds were probably 15 to 20 mph all day," said Larry Birch.

READ MORE: Ominous orange skies loom over San Francisco amid California wildfires
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Why is the sky orange in the Bay Area? There is smoke in the air from the Bear Fire near Chico, but the marine layer is protecting us, so the sky is red, yellow or orange even where air quality is good.

Birch is part of a team from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service who are aiding those in California.

A total of 60 fires continue to scorch three states Wednesday night, including California, Washington and Oregon.

Firefighters are attacking the flames from the ground and the air, 14,000 people are on the frontlines just in California.

"(It's) very hot, we were caught in 100 degree days," said Birch.

The winds have produced everything from mushroom cloud-like plumes of smoke to vortexes that can make it almost impossible for firefighters to contain.

"I mean it was just chasing spot fires after spot fires, we have to hold the line," said Birch.

READ MORE: At least 4 dead in Northwest as nearly 200 wildfires burn across western US

Dave Achey was also part of the New Jersey team. He was sent to Wyoming to help fight the flames.

"It does get extremely hot. You know, we've been trained to do this and it's a very hectic situation, especially if there are evacuations and stuff like that going on," said Achey of Mays Landing.

If that was not difficult enough, imagine trying to fight these raging fires during the middle of a pandemic.

"It has been a little challenging for us, just trying to make sure that we can maintain staying healthy, maintain hygiene, having the proper PPE," said Achey.

Officials say another team of firefighters will be en route out to the West Coast once Birch, Achey and others return home Wednesday.
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