Darrell Gunnells works on packing his utility truck at the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s Operations Center on Thursday in Everett. A fleet of Snohomish County PUD workers was preparing to travel to the Redding, California, area to assist in relief efforts amid the wildfires. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Darrell Gunnells works on packing his utility truck at the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s Operations Center on Thursday in Everett. A fleet of Snohomish County PUD workers was preparing to travel to the Redding, California, area to assist in relief efforts amid the wildfires. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

As fires devastate California, local crews are on their way

Snohomish County PUD and several fire departments traveled to Mendocino County this week.

EVERETT — Shelton Alexander isn’t sure what to expect when he gets there.

He doesn’t think he’ll recognize it.

Alexander and 19 others from the Snohomish County PUD are traveling to the northern part of California to help with wildfires.

They left Everett around 7 a.m. Thursday and took a break from driving at a truck stop near the Oregon border.

“What I envision is that trees, homes and everything in the path has just been destroyed into nothing but ash,” Alexander said.

The crew is going to work in Mendocino County. Several fire departments from Snohomish County also have been dispatched there.

The Mendocino Complex Fire is made up of multiple blazes. The largest are the River Fire and the Ranch Fire, which have each been burning for a week near the city of Ukiah since July 27. Combined, they have consumed more than 110,000 acres thus far.

The PUD caravan expects to arrive Saturday morning. They have about 10 vehicles with them, including lifts, flat beds and heavy equipment to dig holes.

Once there, the fleet will help replace more than 1,000 utility poles that have been damaged or destroyed.

“The main focus is going to be getting power restored to customers who still have homes,” Alexander said.

Between the two fires, 38 buildings had burned down as of Thursday. Another 12,200 are in danger.

The team plans to work in areas where the fire has already has been extinguished. The group was sent by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. They could be there for up to a month.

This isn’t the first time folks from the PUD have traveled to other states after a natural disaster. Last year, a 19-member unit went to Georgia to restore power after Hurricane Irma.

Local firefighters also helped others with wildfires last year. They went to California then, too, said Heather Chadwick, a spokeswoman for Fire District 7.

“I hope it doesn’t become a trend, but it’s been two years in a row,” she said.

A total of 21 firefighters from five departments were sent by Washington’s Emergency Management Division. They include the Everett Fire Department, South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue, Fire District 22 serving Getchell, Fire District 26 of Gold Bar and Fire District 7.

They left Tuesday evening and arrived in Ukiah on Wednesday night.

Each department brought its own engine. They will likely spend most of their time protecting homes, Chadwick said.

The firefighters plan to be there for about two weeks.

To get to Mendocino County from Washington, the teams would have to pass the Carr Fire, which is in Redding, California. That fire has burned more than 125,800 acres, according to reports from Cal Fire.

It has killed six people, including two firefighters. As of Thursday afternoon it was considered the sixth most destructive fire in state history.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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