Iowa student sent to fight western wildfires

22 July 2021

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USA – DES MOINES, Iowa — As wildfires continue to destroy more than one million acres of land in the West, Iowans are gearing up and preparing to help out where they can.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are at least 78 large fires burning across 13 states. There are more than 20,700 wildland firefighters out working those fires.

Nineteen-year-old Turner Sowden is just one of those wildland firefighters who spent time out on the west coast helping out. Sowden is in the fire program at Iowa Central Community College. The 19-year-old says he went out west through a program through the Iowa DNR. He left around July 1st to help fight fires across Montana.

“I was on a hand crew,” explained Sowden. “We dug in a line that a bulldozer couldn’t because there was too steep of a hill.”

Sowden spent two weeks in Montana. In that time, he was able to get a better understanding of what conditions states in the west are facing now that are contributing to the harsh wildfires.

“It would still get to 100 degrees,” said Sowden. “One day it was like 112 degrees or something like that. It’s so dry, you can be doing just a little bit of farm work and one sparkle light up.”

Sowden tells KCCI no one was hurt in the fires he was helping the team get under control. He says the fires that did get close to homes were able to be quickly contained.

If it gets drier out west, Sowden worries it will only be harder and harder to fight off the fires. He says right now one of the only ways to help now is if people with wildland training volunteer to head out.

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