Local firefighters answered call to serve in California
In November, firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Banks and other area agencies jumped into their trucks and did what they do best: They responded to a call for help.
But these firefighters weren't heading to a fire in Washington County. They made their way south to assist with the largest, most destructive wildfires in the state of California. (See story, Page A1)
Oregon's neighbor to the south has been ravaged by fires, with more than 1.6 million acres burned this year alone, the largest ever recorded, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Camp Fire now is fully contained, as of Monday, Nov. 26. The death toll stands at 85, although that number is expected to rise.
The city of Paradise, a city about the size of Forest Grove not far from Chico, was consumed by fire on Nov. 8. At least 29 people were killed, and more than 6,700 homes and businesses were destroyed. Many from Paradise are listed as missing. Two people died in fires near Los Angeles.
We want to thank the Oregon firefighters who took on these challenges.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal's office oversaw the deployment of 15 strike teams. In total, Oregon sent 85 vehicles and 290 personnel, according to Kim Zagaris, state fire and rescue chief at California Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Emergency Services.
The Oregon strike teams assisted with battling the Camp Fire for 12 days; all of them had returned home as of Nov. 21.
But while the work of these firefighters is heroic, it also serves local residents. As Cassandra Ulven, TVF&R public affairs chief, put it, the agency sends crews from the "wildlands roster" — those firefighters trained in brush and forest fires, as opposed to just urban fires. That way, when they return, they bring back more experience and knowledge to be used for local brush fires.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue' district covers almost 400 square miles, and includes large swaths of brush land, including in the Stafford Triangle — between Tualatin, West Linn and Lake Oswego — and Cooper Mountain, near Beaverton. The district also abuts the Coast Range forests. All of that territory can and will burn. And when it does, the experiences gained by our firefighters in California will come into play.
Ulven said it best: "The knowledge they gain there will be used for fires back here."
A former employee of this newspaper, who left our company in July to teach at California State University in Chico, lost her home and everything she owned. Her family, thankfully, is safe and no one was injured.
Two staffers from our sister publications in Washington County had loved ones forced to evacuate because of the fires.
It isn't just our company. Everyone knows someone affected by these fires.
Knowing that Washington County's finest did their part to help Oregon's neighbor makes us proud to call this area home.