New Jersey sends more firefighters to California to battle wildfires

TRENTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Ten more members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service are now in California fighting the wildfires and will spend two weeks providing assistance there, working 24-hour shifts in most cases.

As crews desperately try to stop the catastrophic California wildfires, the members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service departed from the Atlantic City International Airport over the weekend, landing in San Francisco.

"I told my family - my kids just went back to school - I gotta go back," said Division Forest Fire Warden Michael Achey.

The California Office of Emergency services Tweeted a video of remarks from Achey over the weekend.

"Many of us here from my group are on our second trip. Some of them were only home for two of three days," said Achey.

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"I'm proud to announce that all ten members headed off on Saturday have arrived safely in California. And their arrival is not a moment too late as the fires continue to burn out of control," said Gov. Phil Murphy during Monday's COVID-19 briefing in Trenton.

In addition to the crews and equipment in California, New Jersey forest service firefighters are also helping in Montana, Wyoming and Nevada.

Chief Gregory McLaughlin is managing the traveling crews from New Jersey, and says while the members are excited to go, the missions are taxing.

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"They're exhausted, they're tired. The people in the other states are extremely thankful. We've received numerous letters thanking us for coming out," said McLaughlin.

COVID-19 has complicated these trips this summer. Normally crews would travel in groups of 20. Now they go in groups of 10, with lots of precautions.

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"Our firefighters are tested to make sure they're safe and not positive before they leave. They complete a daily 'I am fit' form where they take their temp and monitor their health for a period of a few weeks before they leave," said McLaughlin.

He added the New Jersey Forest Fire Service will continue to rotate crews in to help fight the fires as long as they're needed and as long as they have the personnel.
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