Washington County strike teams headed to fight California fires
Dozens of firefighters from around Washington County are headed south to battle the blazes in California's wine country, fires which have already claimed 21 lives and burned thousands of structures.
"This is the first time in my 20 years that we've gone to California," said Dave Nemeyer, a spokesperson for Cornelius, Forest Grove and Gaston fire departments. "There have been two times, this being the second, that we've had word about going to California as a possibility, but this is the first time that we've ever actually went. This is just unprecedented for us."
Nemeyer said the request came in late last night, around 9 p.m., and firefighters left Forest Grove around midnight. Gaston Fire sent two crew members, adding to three crew members each from Cornelius and Forest Grove.
Forest Grove and Cornelius both contributed a type-1 fire engine designed to fight structure fires, not wildfires. Nemeyer said the Washington County strike team will most likely be used to protect homes and businesses.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue is sending two engines, one from North Plains and the other from Newberg, along with 12 crew members, two vans and two battalion chief vehicles.
Hillsboro Fire is contributing one fire engine, four crew members and a strike-team leader.
"It's definitely been a busier fire season than in recent memory," said Bruce Montgomery, a Hillsboro Fire spokesperson. "Everyone is back [from other fires] except for the team in California."
Teams from Washington County were involved in fighting the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge, including efforts to protect the historic Multnomah Falls lodge. Nemeyer said one firefighter spent 16 days fighting the Chetco Bar fire in southern Oregon, where Hillsboro Fire Department Operations Chief Scott Magers was among task force leadership.
"Folks are at risk, so we have got to do our part," Nemeyer said.