The Mexican government is sending 100 firefighters to help in the battle against the SQF Complex Fire that has scorched 144,000 acres in the Sequoia National Forest and forced many residents to evacuate the southern Sierra Nevada.
The Mexican fire crews arrived at the San Bernardino International Airport Wednesday afternoon. After a weeklong orientation and training session, the crews will make the five-hour journey to the Tulare County mountains. The firefighters hail from 22 states throughout Mexico and flew out of Guadalajara.
The Sequoia Complex was caused by a lightning strike and discovered on Aug. 24. The fire roared back to life earlier this month, nearly doubling in size over one weekend after significant winds blew through the area. It is now 33% contained with more than 180 structures destroyed.
SQF Complex Fire: Containment nearly doubles to 33%; 1.5 million gallons of retardant dropped
The United States Forest Service and Mexico share a long history of cooperation and mutual aid in fire management, officials said in a press release. Since 1983, the Forest Service has helped to train and assist Mexican fire agencies, according to Julissa Gonzales, a public affairs officer with the service.
The current director of CONAFOR, the National Forestry Commission of Mexico, spent one fire season as a helicopter attack pilot in the Sequoia National Forest through an exchange program early in his career.
“I am very excited for this unique opportunity to visit a station I worked and trained at as a young man and to bring with me firefighters from Mexico to aid in the California firefighting effort,” Eduardo Cruz said.
The country’s forestry department said it can spare the firefighters because there are only active fires burning in one of Mexico’s 32 states, according to the Associated Press. The summer and early fall are typically the rainy seasons in Mexico and the southern hemisphere.
See what others are reading in the latest wildfire coverage:
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The Golden State and Western U.S. are increasingly relying on firefighters from other countries and around the globe to battle a historically damaging fire season.
There are 23 megablazes burning simultaneously across the state and 8,300 fires have scorched more than 3 million acres in California this year.
Joshua Yeager covers water, agriculture, parks and housing for the Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @VTD_Joshy. Get alerts and keep up on all things Tulare County for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today.