As deadly wildfires rage in the Western states, 13 Maine firefighters have been dispatched to Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where wildfires already have blackened more than 1,000 square miles, or an area bigger than Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties combined.

“Everything is on fire, it seems like,” said Michael Latti, 20, a Unity College student who is part of the fire crew in Washington. While he’s there, he’s living in a tent city at a local fairground that’s housing about 1,000 people, he said.

“You wake up, eat breakfast, fight the fire and come back,” he said of the daily routine. “We’re all in high spirits, but we’re definitely starting to get tired. You wake up and you just got to do the job.”

Maine forest rangers fight out-of-state blazes every year through a nationwide reciprocity agreement, but Maine Forest Ranger Jeffrey Currier said Friday that the call for help is particularly high this year.

“We are receiving multiple calls daily” from national fire coordinators, asking for more firefighters or equipment. “They’re basically pleading with the states,” Currier said.

As of Friday, Maine had seven forest rangers, six civilian Maine firefighters and three wildfire trucks at the Western fires, he said.

Three firefighters died last week battling the Washington Okanogan complex, which grew to 472 square miles Friday and was only 12 percent contained, making it the largest blaze in state history.

It has destroyed at least 45 primary residences, 49 cabins and 60 outbuildings, and was poised to merge with a separate 281-square-mile fire.

In Idaho, more than 600 firefighters were battling a 40-square-mile fire Friday, and the Oregon Canyon complex fire reached 135 square miles and destroyed more than three dozen homes.

“These are incidents that have national significance, so we’re very pleased to be part of that,” Currier said.

The firefighters work 16-hour shifts for up to two weeks before returning home, under federal rules. It’s hard work, but great training for Maine firefighters, Currier said, and the state is fully reimbursed for all costs.

“We see it as a huge benefit,” Currier said. “After fighting one of these fires, a 500-acre fire is not such a big deal. It’s a situation where our people are fully trained.”

Latti’s crew in Washington also lent a hand when they came across a “confused and wayward horse” in an area that had already been burned. Latti and firefighter Brian Getchell used apples from their lunches to lure the spooked horse into a fenced area, then found a plastic box and filled it with drinking water from the fire engine. Ranger Wesley Hatch then left a note explaining what they had done – signed, “Maine Forest Service.”

“The leadership of our organization could not be happier with our employees for what we see as a simple, but important, act of compassion. Well done, men,” read a post on the Forest Ranger Facebook page that accompanied photos of the horse.

Latti said the crew has been working in a populated area, so much of their work has been trying to protect houses and structures.

“Sometimes you don’t get to them in time, but we do our best,” he said. They recently “fought fire with fire,” by setting a fire on a hillside to remove fuel from the approaching wildfire and protect a pear orchard and a house.

“The best thing is waking up and not wondering if what I’m doing is making a difference. People are so appreciative,” Latti said. “That owner came out and said ‘Pick all the pears you want.’ “

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