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NM fire departments help fight blazes in California

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fire departments from around the state are dispatching some of their wildland firefighting personnel to help fight blazes burning north of Los Angeles.

Albuquerque Fire Department Wildland Task Force firefighters Eric De La Torre and Justin Moore go through their checklist Thursday morning to make sure that the truck is fully supplied for their trip to help battle fires raging north of Los Angeles, Calif. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Six wildland fire trucks and 18 firefighters from five different departments departed Thursday morning from Albuquerque headed for the Chino Hills-area emergency command center in California, Albuquerque Fire Department Lt. Brian Fox said as crews gathered at the AFD training center.

Fox said California activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the agreement between states to share emergency resources, Wednesday morning asking for New Mexico and other states to send wildland fire resources.

Albuquerque Fire Department is sending two trucks and six firefighters, and fire departments in Los Alamos, Bernalillo County, Corrales and Sandoval County each are sending one truck and three firefighters.

“It’s our duty to community,” said Los Alamos driver and engineer Van Leimer.

He was among the group that traveled to California about four months ago for similar mutual aid.

This round of help will likely wrap up in time for the crews to return to New Mexico for holiday celebrations.

“We hope to be home by Christmas, because the crew is making a huge sacrifice with their families,” Fox said.

AFD Interim Fire Chief Gil Santistevan said federal funds reimburse local department’s expenses and that departments don’t send out more staff or resources than can be spared.

“Frontline operations won’t be impacted,” Santistevan said.

Other states have also responded to the emergency call for help.